RACINE — Tuesday, exactly two weeks after Ricardo Fierro, a well-known community member, was arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on July 24, ICE agents reportedly arrested four more undocumented Racine residents.
A little more than 24 hours after the arrests, organizers mobilized quickly Wednesday to march from the parking lot across the street from Horlick High School on Rapids Drive, down to Douglas Avenue in the neighborhood where the arrests reportedly took place.
For a while it was thought that three men were arrested. But Linda Boyle, co-president of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, corrected the record in front of a crowd of more than 100 people.
“I’m shocked and I’m upset and I’m angry for a number of reasons,” Boyle said. “We have been speaking up for our friend Ricardo Fierro all week long, and now we have four — not three — people who were stopped yesterday morning simply attempting to go to work.”
For Boyle, the arrests touched a nerve because they happened in her neighborhood.
“We are here today to tell Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get out of our community and to stop picking up our people,” Boyle said. “They are not criminals. The best use of law enforcement is to pick up criminals and drug offenders — not our outstanding community members.”
‘My dad is not a criminal’
Christian Ruiz, son of Elpidio Ruiz Hernandez, who was one of the men arrested, said his father was riding to work with several men when they were pulled over.
According to Ruiz, ICE officers were intending to arrest one of the men in the car and instead arrested all of them.
“They know where to find one (undocumented immigrant) and if they find one, they know they can find more,” Ruiz said. “In my opinion, I do feel targeted. We are not people who are harming society. We are not selling drugs. We’re not here raping kids. We’re not here murdering, we’re not taking people’s jobs.”
According to Wisconsin court records, Ruiz Hernandez was cited for driving without a license in 1996 and 2017.
“My dad is not a criminal,” Ruiz said. “He’s a hardworking man, he provides for his family, he cares for us.”
Ruiz is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), meaning he was brought to the United States as a minor and, through an executive action under former President Barack Obama, was granted protection from deportation.
“I work, and I work hard, and I have a great job because of (DACA),” Ruiz said.
But when Ruiz heard about his father, he said was in shock.
“I feel helpless; who can help me at this time?” Ruiz said. “I want (President) Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into their hearts and see that we are not at all bad people; we are not here to hurt anybody.”
Candidates weigh in
Wednesday’s march was attended by both Democratic candidates for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, Caledonia ironworker Randy Bryce and Janesville School Board member Cathy Myers.
Both candidates blasted the Trump Administration’s immigration policy.
Bryce said Trump “has turned ICE into his own personal deportation force.”
“I don’t know why ICE has picked Racine to come and start taking people away,” Bryce said. “It’s not like they’re doing anything criminal; they’re just living their lives.”
Myers said the administration’s policies are a choice and added, “it doesn’t need to happen, and it’s cruel and inhumane.”
“We need to stop these deportations while we figure this (immigration issue) out and not subject them to this type of torment while we wait for politicians to do what they need to do while (immigrants) serve the community,” Myers said.
“Republicans don’t want immigration (reform) at all. This is not about making sure you send people home who at one point came here illegally and brought their children. This is about making sure we have absolutely no immigration.”
State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, has been outspoken on behalf of Fierro and attended the march to show support for the families of those who were arrested on Tuesday.
“It’s not clear to me why this is happening at this moment,” Neubauer said. “It certainly feels right now that Racine has a target on its back.”
Neubauer said there is a “general atmosphere of fear in this (immigrant) community right now because of these repeated incidents.”
Officials from ICE were not available for comment on the arrests on Tuesday.
Republican congressional candidates Bryan Steil and Nick Polce did not return requests for comment on the arrests. But Burlington resident Kevin Adam Steen, who faces Steil and Polce and two others in Tuesday’s Republican primary, offered a statement.
“We need to secure the borders just like we would secure our own homes. We need to fast-track workers through employer sponsorships,” Steen said. “We need to identify families through national ID cards. We need to remove all illegal criminals at the expense of their country of origin.”