Madison protest for immigrant rights

By Robin Gee

MADISON, Wis.--Close to 200 community members and activists packed a February 25 meeting with members of the Madison city council and the Dane County sheriff's department.

People were there to let officials know they will not stand for the "cooperation" between local law enforcement and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials that has led to a four-fold increase in deportations since the beginning of this year.

There were some 30 deportations in 2007, mostly of workers with minor traffic and other nonviolent and civil violations, but another 30 people have been deported since the start of 2008.

Although the city and county both passed ordinances last year against asking for citizenship information unless investigating an aggravated (violent) felony, people have been asked and then deported by ICE for minor traffic violations and nonviolent offenses.

About 40 people testified, and all but three were against the sheriff's department's practice of breaking these ordinances. "I am very concerned about what this has done to our community in terms of human rights and dignity," said Janet Parker of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. "I have a friend from Mexico who has been stopped by police and asked for ID twice recently. Once he was pulled over for not stopping at a stop sign and another time he was approached while getting gas. He wasn't even in his car."

Others testified that the deportations actually make the community less safe. Victims and witnesses to crimes are now even more afraid to come forward if they happen to be undocumented.

Local law enforcement needs more pressure from the community to push back against its cooperation with ICE.