Voces de la Frontera will commemorate two decades of grassroots organizing for immigrant and workers rights during their 20th Anniversary Gala this Friday, Sept. 17 at the American Serb Hall in Milwaukee.
“The gala is not just our annual largest fundraiser, but a space that we created where we hit the brakes on our passionate, relentless organizing that we do,” Voces de la Frontera Co-founder and Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz told Madison365.
Neumann-Ortiz founded Voces de la Frontera in 1994 while enrolled as a student at The University of Texas at Austin. The organization began as a small bilingual newspaper focusing on maquiladora rights on the Texas/Mexico border. Neumann-Ortiz relocated to the city of Milwaukee in 1998. Voces moved with her.
“The one thing that we’re very excited about unveiling in the future is that this year we were able to buy a new building in Milwaukee which will be our main state building,” she said.
The gala grants the organization the opportunity to thank workers, organizers and volunteers for supporting their efforts. Funds raised at the gala help to sustain efforts to expand the rights of immigrant families, restore driver licenses and in-state tuition equity in Wisconsin and build organizational capacity.
“In this case, we want to reflect on 20 years of struggle and it’s coming at an exciting moment,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “We are at a critical moment right now because of that work that’s been done in Wisconsin and across the nation.”
Neumann-Ortiz referenced President Joe Biden’s promise to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. This includes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients (DREAMers), farmworkers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) residents and essential workers.
Senate Democrats have been working on a massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation package which includes federal investment in social services such as child care, immigration and climate change programs. Neumann-Ortiz said now it’s time for Democrats to deliver.
“We believe that Democrats need to get this done. It is morally correct that they do that,” she said.
Neumann-Ortiz also says that immigration status creates barriers around testing and vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Sept. 21, Voces plans to send a delegation of busses to Washington, D.C. around the time Congress will debate and ultimately vote on the reconciliation budget bill.
“We can’t get out of this public health and economic crisis if we don’t make it an inclusive budget bill that’s going to help everyone who needs the help. They have been the unsung heroes during this crisis,” Neumann-Ortiz said.
She emphasized the necessity of contributions from community members which help sustain the work of the organization. Voces is currently asking people to sponsor people to join them on their trip to D.C. or help with food.
“We’re not asking anyone to make a huge contribution. We’re asking many different people to make small contributions,” Neumann-Ortiz said.