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"A Day Without Latinos and Immigrants" Draws 40,000 to WI Capitol
Reflections on the Day
When Elvia explained to Guadalupe what we’d been talking about, I didn’t need her to interpret Guadalupe’s response: “Un mil!” A thousand times better here than back home! So it seems that no matter how hard we try to make their lives here, they’re not likely to choose to leave.
Guadalupe reflected on how the south side, where most Latino immigrants live, was once home to European immigrants, and that many of those folks or their descendants now depend on these new immigrants’ rent money. This was just one of many insights she shared. One of the most touching moments of the day for me came when Guadalupe told me through Elvia that she often feels that no one ever listens to her or cares about her, but that I had and it made her feel very welcome and comfortable.
When we got into Madison, we started seeing people walking to the capitol building from perhaps two miles away. That’s when I had some inkling of how big this was going to be. Since Guadalupe would have had a hard time walking very far, I dropped them off close to the capitol with my cell phone number so we could meet again later. When I finally found parking and made it back quite a bit later, I was amazed to see a wide circle of marchers surrounding the entire area around the capitol, I would guess anywhere from five to ten thousand people. Some were shouting slogans or just yelling in jubilation, but all were peaceful (as the news coverage confirmed). It seemed to me that the huge majority were families, including many babies in strollers. I felt sorry for those who seemed underdressed for the cold, windy weather but smiles were still the order of the day.
I decided to go inside the Capitol to visit my own representatives to tell them why I was against the two bills. Again I was amazed to see thousands more inside, filling the rotunda to the rafters. In my comments to the staffers of my representatives, who are backers of both bills, I asked them to consider the importance of undocumented workers to our state economy (as a Journal Sentinel article the day before had pointed out in regard to dairy farms, 40% of whose employees are undocumented), and stressed that these are not people we have to be afraid of. I mentioned the Catholic Church’s position on immigration and what the Pope was saying down on the border. I was promised that my comments would be passed on, but neither of the staffers tried to engage me in dialogue and their attitude implied that my arguments would make no difference.
On the way home, both women were ecstatic with the turnout and energized by the speeches they had heard. They said they had met people there from all corners of Wisconsin, from Kenosha to Green Bay. They wondered, though, if the powerful would listen to all those marching that day. I told them that I would definitely be sharing with the Priests of the Sacred Heart what I saw and heard in the hope that you in turn might help open people’s eyes to their reality. They told me to let them know if I ever wanted them to come and share their stories with you or anyone else.
It was an inspiring day, but now that it’s over I wonder how much difference it will make. The ID card bill passed both houses and is now on Governor Walker’s desk. At this writing, the Sanctuary Cities bill was seen as “unlikely” to be taken up by the Senate. If it does not, or if the governor doesn’t sign one or both bills, then the day most certainly had a political impact. But what impact will it have on the hearts of our citizenry? As Donald Trump and others attempt to spread fear and myths, and so many Americans cheer them on, including many Catholics, I fear that demagoguery may still triumph, at least in the short run. If only more people could meet an Elvia or a Guadalupe! Their suffering, strength, courage, and desire to be good neighbors and contribute to their adopted country would melt those hearts and impel us to overcome our fears and reach out in compassion.