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Politics & Government

Voces de la Frontera Rethinks Strategies in Light of Trump Presidency

Susan Bence
Milwaukee Public Radio

During the early hours of Election Day, the local immigrant advocacy group spread the word. It planned to celebrate historic Latino voter turnout.

But rather than celebratory, it was somber. While Latino voters in Wisconsin backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of 87 to 10 percent, Trump emerged with a stunning victory.

Credit Susan Bence
Valeria Ruiz has spent most of her young life in Racine, Wisconsin.

As the November election approached, Valeria Ruiz served as campaign coordinator for Voces de la Frontera in Racine, Wisconsin.

“We went out into the community and tried to raise up the vote. We must have knocked on 80,000 doors. We were just trying to push out the vote. If they had what they needed – where they could vote or if they needed transportation,” Ruiz says.

Ruiz is a recent high school graduate and has spent most of her life in Racine.

She expected the U.S. immigration policy that President Obama championed to protect her. It’s called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, and it protects certain undocumented immigrants – such as children who enter the country before their 16th birthday.

President-Elect Donald Trump has long trumpeted plans to crackdown on illegal immigration.

Credit Susan Bence
Valeria Ruiz with her father Gabriel.

Ruiz worries about her future, along that of her parents and younger sister.

Ruiz translates her father, Gabriel’s words. He’s determined to be optimistic.

“We know something that happened was a tragedy but see good in it. It happened for a reason and greater things will come,” Ruiz says.

A translator helps Maria Flores share her story. The mother of three has lived in Waukesha for nearly 18 years

“The hardest question I had to answer this morning was telling my children who had won the presidency,” Flores adds, "“The youngest of my children told me, mom, hate won, and he asked what are we going to do now."

Credit Susan Bence
Single mother Maria Rosa Ruiz is trying to navigate the unknown.

Another mom sits among the reporters and speaks up, hoping someone addresses her fears. Maria Rosa Ruiz says she has lived and worked in Milwaukee for 18 years. She has no other family here, except her 16 year old son who was born here.

Ruiz worries - what will become of her son if the U.S. deports her.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz promises she will continue her 10-year fight to help thousands of undocumented immigrants stay here legally. She heads the local group Voces de la Frontera.

“Our responsibility is that we work hard to build a stronger bigger movement for economic justice and civil rights – I think it’s a necessity,” Newmann-Ortiz says.

Neumann-Ortiz says, in the meantime, Voces will continue helping parents prepare for the worst.

“To prepare their papers and documents in the event of a deportation. What do you need – power of attorney for your children and obviously to fight against the deportation with the existing policies,” Newmann-Ortiz says.

No one can predict how America’s policies might shift in coming months.

This weekend, Voces will kick off a series of forums around the state – the first in Milwaukee. Newmann-Ortiz hopes they cultivate dialogue - Latinos and immigrants with the wider community.

Credit Susan Bence
Parents at the Voces de la Frontera press conference say they worry about the future of their children.

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