RACINE — Illegal immigration and deportation has been a hot topic nationwide and, during the summer of 2018, those issues were brought to some Racine residents’ front doors.
In late July Ricardo Fierro, an undocumented immigrant, was arrested at his home in Racine; he is currently fighting deportation. At the time of the arrest, several public officials, including Racine Mayor Cory Mason, Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave, and state Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, wrote letters on Fierro’s behalf.
City aldermen John Tate II and Henry Perez introduced a resolution in the City Council supporting Fierro.
In August, less than two weeks after Fierro’s arrest, four more undocumented immigrants were arrested in Racine.
These actions sparked outrage and protests in Racine and ranked as No. 3 among the The Journal Times’ top news stories of 2018.
At one protest Linda Boyle, co-president of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, expressed her frustration with what was happening at the time.
“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.”
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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.”
Immigrant rights organizations such as the Racine Interfaith Coalition, Voces de La Frontera and Youth Empowered in the Struggle organized several rallies and marches that regularly drew crowds of more than 100 people advocating for the release of the undocumented Racine residents.
And immigration reform was an issue House Speaker Paul Ryan said he regrets not making more progress on while he was in office.
Congressional candidates such as Republican Bryan Steil and Democrats Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers mentioned the need for changes to the immigration system. Bryce and Myers attended marches and rallies during this time, even going as far as getting arrested for civil disobedience to emphasize their concerns.
A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Journal Times: “ICE leadership has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
Before the arrests, there were several protests this year related to immigration. One in March drew hundreds of people who advocated for deportation protection for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival status.