Wisconsin fights for a DREAM

February 1, 2018

Brook Tylka and Josh Phillips report on the efforts of immigrant rights activists in Madison to rally support for a "clean" DREAM Act.

"UP, UP with liberation; down, down with deportation."

That chant rang out at two rallies in January at the Wisconsin Capitol building in Madison. The protests drew hundreds of people to fight for immigrant rights and the passage of a new version of the DREAM Act in particular.

On January 19, a group of nearly 200 people mobilized to demonstrate. On January 27, another 100 came out for the "Wisconsin Resists: #DREAM Act Now" rally.

The January 27 event began outside the Capitol building, then moved inside for chants and speakers. "Black, Brown, trans, queer; immigrants are welcome here," and "I am somebody, I deserve fully equality right here, right now" were among the chants.

Organizers of the rallies had called a rally last fall that focused on de-stigmatizing immigrants as criminals and urging politicians, by means of petitions and phone calls, to support immigrant rights.

After the January 19 protest, dozens of demonstrators marched across the street to Sen. Tammy Baldwin's office, where they crowded the lobby to demand that she commit to keeping the government shut down until a new DREAM Act bill had been secured.

Immigrant rights activists rally in defense of Dreamers in the Wisconsin Capitol
Immigrant rights activists rally in defense of Dreamers in the Wisconsin Capitol (Indivisible Madison | Twitter)

THE CRISIS for the DREAMers began in September, when Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

His goal was to use the rights of immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age as a bargaining chip to secure approval and funding for the border wall and other Republican projects.

Immigrant rights activists had hoped that the Democrats would stand strong for a "clean" DREAM Act without added provisions for internal security or funding for border wall. Yet despite forcing a government shutdown, Baldwin and the Democrats caved to pressure after just three days, ending the shutdown with only vague promises of some kind of deal for the DREAMers in the future.

Many at the January 27 rally felt that the Democrats' compromise had let immigrants down. Nevertheless, there was still a strong emphasis on calling legislators. Laura, an immigrant rights activist who helped organize the rally, said, "We saw the Democrats fail. We saw that they were willing to give up our rights once again."

Another organizer, Karen, said that activists had been able to pull together several actions in short periods of time and that organizing around this issue in Madison had been a positive experience. Karen has also been traveling to Washington D.C. to participate in activism there.

The parents of one young family in attendance had come to this country from Mexico as children. They now have children of their own, who are considered legal citizens by birthright. However, since the parents are both DACA recipients, they could soon be deported back to Mexico without their children, where they have no contacts.

Speakers at the rally stressed the importance of standing up for all immigrants, not just those who would be covered under DACA. All undocumented immigrants in the United States deserve protection.

Micah, a member of the Madison branch of the International Socialist Organization and the child of an immigrant, emphasized the need to take protests and turn them into movements, saying that the attacks on immigrant rights won't stop even if we win the passage of a clean DREAM Act.

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