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Milwaukee Immigrant Advocates Say Executive Order is Progess but Not Enough

LaToya Dennis

Pres. Obama will allow five million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, to as he put it, “come out of the shadows,” at least temporarily.

At a watch party hosted by the group Voces de la Frontera Thursday night on Milwaukee’s south side, more than 50 people gathered to watch and listen to the president announcing his executive order. Most of those present were Hispanic, with ages ranging from the very young to to people who’ve been fighting for immigration reform for years.

Credit LaToya Dennis
Immigrants and immigration advocates discuss Mr. Obama's executive order

As soon as President Obama took center stage you could have heard a pin drop in the room if not for the televisions. There was no cheering or booing for that matter, but when the president began to talk about additional resources at the border and the deportation of criminals, many people shook their heads no. After the speech, someone in the audience spoke about why he was disappointed. Gil Amador says the U.S. should be working to build bridges with Mexico, not walls.

“Democrats are still scared of Mexicans and there is an implicit racism on this. They are scared of us. We need to build bridges. It’s not just deportations, it’s not about dreamers. It’s about connecting our communities. It’s because we have roots in Mexico and we’re not going to…I’m not going to lose my roots, my heritage just because I’m here. I can’t accept the first half of the speech, I think it’s still insulting to many who are Mexican,” Amador says.

While up to 5 million people will be allowed to take part in this program, estimates put the undocumented population at around 11 million—85,000 are thought to live in Wisconsin. Many at the party said that the president’s decision is a sign of progress, but it’s not enough as many in the audience and others that they know will not qualify for various reasons. Christine Neumann Ortiz is executive director of Voces. She says the fight will continue.

“It’s a huge victory, and I think we have to claim that victory because we worked for it. And it really should be giving us the energy to keep fighting, because we know there’s a lot of people we love and care for right now who are not included who are equally deserving and that we have to keep up that fight. And it’s going to be a fight whether through executive action or through congress, but we are in a stronger position,” Neumann Ortiz says.

As far as opposition is concerned, Neumann Ortiz says that whoever is elected president in 2016 will need the Hispanic vote. She says one way to lose that vote would be by alienating the Latino community by pushing back on this change.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.