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RACINE — In an effort to keep the pressure on law enforcement, a group of about 50 protesters gathered at the Racine Law Enforcement Center on Tuesday morning to advocate for the removal of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from Racine neighborhoods.

Linda Boyle, co-president of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, and one of the main organizers of the protest, said: “At least five of our people have been stopped and taken without a criminal record, just for being in the wrong spot at the wrong time ... we know that the families are hurting. We know that the children are suffering.”

On July 24, Ricardo Fierro, who was an active community member in Racine, was arrested at his home by ICE officials and is currently in court fighting his removal. Fierro first came to the United States legally as a teenager with his family in 1995 but the family overstayed its visa. According to ICE, Fierro was deported to Mexico in August 1997. He later illegally returned to the country.

On Aug. 7, two weeks after Fierro’s arrest, four more Racine residents, allegedly here illegally, were arrested by ICE. That includes the arrest of Elpidio Ruiz Hernandez. The Journal Times has contacted ICE to get confirmation of the arrests of the four individuals in August, but officials were not able to confirm or deny the arrests.

Legislation to come

Protesters were joined by state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, who advocated for people to vote in November for candidates “that stand with us, that stand with our community.”

Although the legislative session is over, Zamarripa said she plans to help put together a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to have “driving cards” which would allow them to drive legally if they pass a driver’s test and get car insurance.

Zamarripa said this would make the roads safer and plans to introduce the bill during the next legislative session.

“I’ll be ready to roll out the bill (on) driver cards for undocumented immigrants again in the new year as soon as we start the legislative session,” Zamarripa said. “Immigration is not just a federal issue.”

Zamarripa said pressure needs to be put on leadership in the state Legislature to “do something around immigration.”

“Immigration is broken in this country,” Zamarripa said. “We have had immigrants fall through the cracks of this broken immigration system and now they’re suffering the repercussions of the mistakes of Congress and politicians now wanting to deal with this issue.”

Racine County Board member Fabi Maldonado said there are some other board members considering putting together a resolution regarding immigrants in Racine County that could be voted on by the full board.

“We’re going to be doing something about it, but what legislation we’re going to be pushing forward first is still unknown,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado, who has been to several immigration marches and rallies recently, said he feels bittersweet about what is going on in the community.

“It sucks that we’re doing this, that we’re literally protesting to stop the splitting up of families,” Maldonado said. “But it feels good that the community is out here and they actually care about this issue.”

‘We’re not going anywhere’

Horlick High School student Luis Tapia said he and his family have been “living in fear” because of the recent arrests.

“It has been a real fear knowing that anywhere we go, we can be stopped at any time,” Tapia said. “And I’ve been trying to cope with it by going to these marches and telling ICE that we’re not going anywhere.”

Tapia said his family was planning a trip to Wisconsin Dells but at the last moment cancelled it out of fear of being arrested.

“We don’t want to take the risk of going out and being stopped by ICE,” Tapia said.

Tapia is entering his senior year at Horlick and said he won’t allow these arrests to have a negative impact on his education.

“It’s definitely going to motivate me because I’m going to try to push harder, not for myself, but for my family that need my support,” Tapia said. “And hopefully on my way to college.”

“It sucks that we’re doing this, that we’re literally protesting to stop the splitting up of families. But it feels good that the community is out here and they actually care about this issue.” — Racine County Supervisor Fabi Maldonado

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

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