Members of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) gathered to protest migrant and refugee detention Friday morning, marching to deliver “babies in cages” to US Senator Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) downtown Milwaukee office.
Growing from the initial 30 protestors to over 60 as it went along, the protest began on the corner of 5th and Wisconsin Avenue where both LULAC President Domingo Garcia and CEO Sindy Benavides addressed the crowd. Emphasizing the need for a humane and bipartisan solution to the border crisis and future immigration policy, both stressed the importance of Senator Johnson’s power to stop the crisis as the chairman of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.
The group walked more than half a mile down Wisconsin Avenue led by Garcia and youth members of LULAC, who in pairs carried the 4 dog cages with toy babies inside them and wore aluminum foil to protest conditions at migrant and refugee detention facilities.
As the protesters reached Senator Johnson’s office, they were turned away as press cameras were not allowed inside, nor were the “babies in cages.” The protest moved into the lobby and ultimately outside onto the steps of his office, where for about 15 minutes protesters continued their chants. An impromptu rally was held where youth leaders chanted and spoke again about the inhumane conditions, the need for immigration reform and the importance of protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients. The group then walked back to the Wisconsin Center where this weekend’s LULAC national convention was taking place.
The protest itself drew not only LULAC members but others in support of the Latino community.
Valerie Ricks, who identifies as a African-American and Native American woman, came out this morning to volunteer her time to help protesters. A union
steward at the Pfister hotel, Hicks spoke of her solidarity with her Latino co-workers and the protest, emphasizing the importance of people learning history.
“You’re telling people to leave their land, when you don’t know their history,” she noted as she pointed out the Latino-based, Spanish-language names of states throughout the US. Encouraging people “to hear history from their story, not his story,” she continued, helped her to listen to all stories.
Yuli Martinez spoke with Madison365 as he walked along and chanted with protesters.
“I came here to make a stand, together, united, and it’s really important that we make our voices known,” said Martinez, a LULAC delegate from New York. Martinez also spoke about his wife who is at home in New York, working as a clinical social worker with immigrant families. She shared with him that some of these families are coming to her fearful of this weekend’s planned ICE raids.
“They’re asking all kinds of questions,” Martinez said. “They’re concerned about their families being separated and their children being separated.”