The Milwaukee County Board held a contentious debate Thursday over refugees and undocumented immigrants. When it ended, the board voted 12-6 to affirm its commitment to protecting immigrants who live here.
The issue arose in response to President Trump’s order to temporarily bar people from seven mostly Muslim countries and his talk of deporting at least some undocumented immigrants.
Dozens of people packed into the County Board chamber, carrying signs that read “No Hate” and “Refugees are Welcome Here.” Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic authored the resolution. She says it affirms the county’s commitment to keeping families together despite their legal status.
“When you feel welcome and you can work with your police department and your sheriff’s department, I believe that will be a much safer place for us all to live to live. We cannot wait any longer, who knows what else is coming down. I urge you today to stand up to bullying and threatening, it’s just the beginning and be on the right side of history,” Dimitrijevic says.
One person who voted yes is Supervisor Marcelia Nicholson. She says she’s witnessed fears, working as a teacher for the Milwaukee Public Schools.
“I see the faces of immigrant students and parents every day. I interact with families of all backgrounds and I understand how important it is to protect their rights to equal opportunity and a productive future. As a young woman of color, I understand what it means to face oppression and be seen as a second class citizen, and I declare myself an ally in the fight against discrimination in all of its forms,” Nicholson says.
One dissenter is Supervisor David Sartori of Cudahy. He says the board is obligated to follow the law.
“I think support of this resolution is an abdication of our oath of office. We deal in the world of reality, life, and unfortunately sometimes life isn’t fair. We’re living in different times, we’re living in a world of global, international terrorism,” Sartori says.
Another person opposed to the bill is Supervisor Steve Taylor of Franklin. He calls it a feel-good measure with no teeth and insists the board should be focusing on more important issues.
“Why aren’t we in Madison fighting for more shared revenue, more money for transportation? But yet, we’re bogging down this body with this -- that accomplishes nothing. I don’t work for any political party. I work for the people of Milwaukee County and it’s time that this body gets to work, starts helping to create jobs, building a tax base, increasing revenue, not political pandering,” Taylor says.
After the vote, supporters of the resolution gathered in the hallway. Lena Camara says she came here from Senegal 11 years ago, yet now fears the U.S. will find a way to kick her out of the country.
“And I’m a Muslim, so being Muslim, from Africa, having a green card and not being a citizen, can be scary and I don’t want to feel that way but it’s the way that I’m feeling,” Camara says.
Camara says she plans to continue making her voice heard at public gatherings.