Next year’s presidential election is on the minds of many people attending the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) convention in downtown Milwaukee. It runs through Saturday and up to 20,000 people from across the country are expected to attend. Many of the workshops are focused on political activism.
Linda Chavez traveled here from Austin, Texas. She says health care, immigration and economic development are weighing on her mind:
"Those are the top three with me and of course the census, the 2020 count and we’re very concerned as to what’s going on with the administration right now," she says.
Chavez says she’s pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled it would be unconstitutional for President Trump’s administration to include a question about immigration status on the census form. But now, she’s worried about Trump’s threat to use executive power to overrule the high court.
“It scares a lot of the people, especially in Texas. It’s a border state and our border states have a lot of immigrants and they’re not going to feel comfortable filling out a questionnaire that asks them about their legal status ... and we’re not going to have an accurate count,” she says.
Another person here is Federico Garza of San Benito, Texas. He served during the Vietnam War and says he’s concerned about immigration too, especially among veterans.
“[For] veterans who have not gone through the citizenship process — [if] they get an issue [or] they have a PTSD problem, and instead of trying to take care of that issue they deport them, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to prevent,” he says.
At the convention, Garza says he hopes to learn ways to get more people in his community politically involved.
Fermin Dorado traveled to LULAC from El Paso, Texas. He says the number one issue on his mind is the situation at the border of Mexico.
Thousands of people have been seeking asylum from Central American countries, and there are reports that detention centers in border towns are overflowing. Dorado says one of the centers is located in a neighboring town and it breaks his heart to see families separated.
“The United States has been a country of immigrants and the U.S. has a right to defend its border, and I agree with that, but we need to do it with dignity and humanity,” he says.
Dorado hopes the convention will teach him ways for Latino communities to climb the economic ladder.
Christina Garcia of Dallas says she’s happy that the event is being held in Wisconsin — the home of Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, chair of the Homeland Security committee. She hopes Johnson hears their message.
“Step up. Step up to Trump, and we see him doing a little bit of that. On social media, we’ve seen people attack immigrants and he’s come to their defense minimally. But we need him to come to their defense at the national level, in the Senate. As the chair of homeland security, we need him to do more,” she says.
Garcia says she hopes Johnson can stop a bill recently introduced by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. The bill would extend a child’s stay at a detention center from 20 days to 100 days.
The convention runs through Saturday, and culminates tonight with a town hall featuring some of the Democratic presidential candidates — including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke.