Madison rallies for migrant rights

December 5, 2018

Summer Coff reports from Madison, Wisconsin, on a demonstration against the U.S. government’s cruel treatment of migrants and refugees.

IN RESPONSE to the Trump administration’s chilling reaction to the migrant caravan that has made its way to the U.S.-Mexico border, students and campus community members at the University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison gathered on December 4 to show support for migrant and refugee rights.

The protest was one of a number of demonstrations that have taken place around the country in recent days in defense of migrants and to demand that members of the caravan be let into the U.S.

Despite the frigid wind chill, approximately 80 people turned out for the event, which was sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, Young Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Alternative, Indivisible and the UW chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA).

Attendees included members of these groups, in addition to many who heard about the event and came as individuals, or with groups of friends.

Students demonstrate in solidarity with the refugee caravan in Madison, Wisconsin
Students demonstrate in solidarity with the refugee caravan in Madison, Wisconsin (Molly DeVore | The Badger Herald)

Scot, a member of the International Socialist Organization, kicked off the demonstration by reminding the crowd that the land they were standing on was stolen Ho-Chunk land:

The United States was founded on stolen land, and it is important that, as we stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees, we also stand in solidarity with all Indigenous people on this landmass who are still fighting for their rights to self-determination and liberation. It is no coincidence that at this time two years ago, the police and private mercenaries were firing tear gas at water protectors in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

Other speakers discussed the imperialist origins of the crisis in Honduras and other Latin American nations, the details of the recent tear gas attack on the migrants on Mexican soil, the culpability of the Democratic Party, and specific stories of some of the refugees who have crossed, undocumented, into the United States.

“The U.S. has long played an oppressive role in Honduran politics that has led to this refugee crisis,” Sari, the co-chair of the Young Democratic Socialists of America at UW Madison, told the crowd. “The blood is on our hands.”

THE QUESTION of how to defend immigrants has been an active question for many in Madison. Over this last summer, in response to the news of Trump’s family separation policy, Madison saw back-to-back weekend rallies attended by as many as 1,000 people both times.

The chant of “Abolish ICE” rang out during those summer rallies, and it was at that time that Madison’s representative in Congress, Mark Pocan, wrote legislation to abolish ICE. This move by Pocan fell short of what activists were calling for — it would have simply moved the functions of ICE to other agencies

Neverthelss, Pocan and the other co-sponsors of the bill promised to vote against their own legislation if the Republicans allowed it to be brought to the floor.

Scot concluded the rally, emphasizing the need to get organized and continue the pressure, saying:

This fight is far from over. People are going to continue to try to cross the border, to find a safe life for their families, and the U.S. shows no sign of stopping these attacks.

We’ve got to be organized so we can actually be strong enough to stop these attacks. If you aren’t already, now is the time to become organized, to join a group, so that we can build the movements we need to win.

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