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Immigration groups target Paul Ryan, rally in Racine
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Immigration groups target Paul Ryan, rally in Racine

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RACINE — In what was billed as a "Where's Paul Ryan Town Hall," immigration and refugee activists rallied at the Dr. John Bryant Community Center in Racine on Saturday to urge Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to block some of President Donald Trump's agenda.

Nearly 300 people showed up some with their own signs and others provided by organizers that said things like "represent us too" and "Love Trumps Hate," a phrase made famous by Hillary Clinton during her nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. 

Rev. Dr. Tony Larsen of Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church was one of a dozen speakers who rallied the crowd, showing solidarity with Muslims.

"If there is a Muslim registry, I will be a Muslim and I will be on the the list," Larsen said.

Racine residents Jose and Alejandra Loza walked over to the gym from their neighborhood to bring their three children to the rally for the experience.

"I want my children to know they can fight for their rights. I want them to know they have a say, not just because of your race or nationality," Alejandra Loza said. "The United States is a place of freedom."

Alejandra Loza said her parents came to America from Mexico illegally in the 1980s, but became legal through Ronald Reagan's amnesty program. But she feels more needs to be done.

"My children are not illegal and I am not illegal, and we're treated like outcasts," Loza said.

'Not afraid'

The event was organized by Voces de la Frontera, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Fair Immigration Reform Movement to encourage like-minded residents of Racine County to join their march on Milwaukee, in what they call the "May 1st General Strike." Organizers said the protests will be taking place nationwide that day. 

Speakers spoke at a podium with a 10-foot-tall effigy of Ryan.

NLDON's national campaign coordinator Salvador Sarmiento, who works out of Los Angeles, suggested that Wisconsin's 1st district congressman should be voted out of office.

"We're not afraid of Trump and we're not afraid of Trump's agenda," Sarmiento told the crowd.

Ryan won re-election in November by 35 percent. Since the Obamacare repeal failed, Ryan's approval rating nationally has been falling. However, locally, a March 22 Marquette Law School Poll shows Ryan with a 45 percent favorable rating and a 38 percent unfavorable rating.

Children

One of the two dozen local students who came to the rally, Horlick High School student Yvonka Vazquez, wanted to know how Ryan would ensure the well-being of children who are caught up in the immigration restrictions of the Trump administration.

Ryan's office wanted to make clear that the country's immigration enforcement priority is and should be violent criminals, not children.

"We've got to make sure these laws are being enforced, that we are controlling our borders so violent criminals and repeat offenders don't come back in and do these horrific things," Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement from his office. "When people in this country have confidence that our border is secure and laws are being enforced, the country will be in a much better position to fix some of these bigger, more thornier problems."

State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, who's also running for mayor of Racine, spoke at the rally and said he want to be there to learn first-hand what immigrants and refugees are going through.

"You come to understand how public policy proposals affect people in the real world," Mason said. "They're facing a political scrutiny and a level of discrimination that we haven't seen against immigrants in a couple generations. So it's important for elected officials like me to see how it affects people."

Mason said people who aren't American Indians forget their own history of immigration.

Somali refugee Mustafa Nuur, who came to the rally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said he can't forget his father, Omar Nuur, who was killed by rebels in his country for standing up for violence and the oppressed.

"No one deserves to go through that, especially children. There are a million more with a similar story," Nuur said.

Nuur spent 10 years in a refugee camp before he came to America and he said he is honoring his father's legacy by joining the struggle and trying to recruit refugees to speak out everywhere.

"In America, I feel safe after a very, very long time," Nuur said. "In America, I can sleep."

"I want my children to know they can fight for their rights. I want them to know they have a say, not just because of your race or nationality."

— Alejandra Loza, Racine mother of three 

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"They're facing a political scrutiny and a level of discrimination that we haven't seen against immigrants in a couple generations. So it's important for elected officials like me to see how it affects people."

—State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine

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"When people in this country have confidence that our border is secure and laws are being enforced the country will be in a much better position to fix some of these bigger, more thornier problems."

— Speaker Paul Ryan

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