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RACINE — Members of the public and the Racine Interfaith Coalition gathered on the steps of City Hall on Monday to ask a pointed question: “Where are the children?”

The question is reference to information that came out in April that the federal Department of Health and Human Services allegedly has lost track of more than 1,400 children who were picked up as unaccompanied minors at the southern border of the United States.

Linda Boyle, co-president of RIC, said the children are being used to “punish immigrants” who have come into the country.

“We must take action,” Boyle said. “We must demand that this action stops.”

Boyle lead the group of about 50 people in a prayer asking for “the courage to stand up in their defense against those who would do them harm.”

Having tried to influence House Speaker Paul Ryan, Boyle said individuals like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, might be able to sway their party ally Ryan.

“I think we start locally and put pressure on our local politicians,” Boyle said. “It will trickle up. If we put enough pressure on (them) it will trickle up. We always talk about Paul Ryan — he’s not listening. But if the right people start contacting him like Mr. Vos or Mr. Wanggaard, they’ll get the idea.”

Historical ties

Racine resident and longtime immigrant advocate Maria Morales spoke about the necessity to make sure this fight doesn’t end.

“Thousands of families are being torn apart at the border,” Morales said. “We have to stand up and speak up for these kids, they’re defenseless.”

For Morales, speaking about immigration on the steps of City Hall brought back memories to 2003, she said, of fighting for immigrant rights and children, often known as “Dreamers.” The label is a reference to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for those children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

“This is the place where we had the first immigrant march in Racine,” Morales said. “We did our immigrant march here because we were doing a freedom ride to Washington, D.C., supporting the DREAM Act, supporting a humane legalization legislation for all immigrants. This is home to us.”

Another speaker was Kennia Coronado, a Horlick High School graduate and currently a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

From her time living in California, Coronado said anti-immigrant legislation has “persisted since I was a child.”

“I don’t remember a single point in my life when I have not been helping or organizing my family and immigrant families alike to fight for our existence,” Coronado said. “We continuously have to live under these fears and the fears of our families being separated.”

After meeting in Racine, the group met again in Kenosha at Ryan’s office and held another rally.

“Thousands of families are being torn apart at the border. We have to stand up and speak up for these kids, they’re defenseless.” Maria Morales, local activist

Reporter

Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.