Thousands of protesters are flocking to Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Monday, in response to Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s pledge to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
Per a January Facebook post, Clarke intends to treat local law enforcement as immigration officers in partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Following an inquiry by the Associated Press, Clarke wrote that he would enroll in ICE’s 287(g) program, which grants local and state officers the authority to arrest and detain undocumented people as deputized immigration officials.
“President Trump made it clear with his Executive Order on enforcement of our immigration laws,” Clarke wrote on January 27. “No more catch and release of criminal illegal aliens. I will assign as many deputies to this initiative as I can. It is a public safety priority.”
In light of Clarke’s announcement, protesters from 25 cities across Wisconsin are descending on Milwaukee to participate in the Day without Latinxs, Immigrants, and Refugees March, organized by Voces de la Frontera. A call to action released on Friday asked participants to “stay away from work and school, close their businesses, leave their farms and march.” Demonstrators will converge on the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
While the goal of the march is “to stop Milwaukee County Sheriff and Trump ally David Clarke from turning sheriffs into Immigration agents,” organizers also want to show the profound influence that immigrants have on various industries throughout the state.
“Immigrants are the backbone to the dairy industry in my area and without them, the economy would get worse for all of us,” organizer Jennifer Estrada, whose husband was deported, said of the protest in a statement. “People should not be afraid of law enforcement, they should not live under the threat of their families being torn apart.”
The march comes days after ICE agents conducted mass raids across the country, arresting hundreds of immigrants between Monday and Friday. Approximately 600 immigrants were rounded up in 11 states, according to the New York Times. People were taken from their homes and places of work.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that the targets were “illegal criminals,” including “gang members” and “drug dealers.” But some of the detainees weren’t specifically targeted by the Department of Homeland Security, immigration advocates said. Some were “collateral” detainees who didn’t have criminal histories but were discovered to be undocumented during the sweeps.
Clarke’s desire to partner with ICE in the near future could result in similar arrests in Milwaukee County, but the sheriff is already facing an uphill battle. County supervisors recently voted to “remain a safe place for immigrants” and oppose Section 287 (g). Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn also vowed to stand with immigrants.
“The role of their local police department is to protect them. That’s our role,” he said one day after Clarke’s proclamation. “And we’re not here to terrify them, pull them out of their houses or pull them off work sites and inquire whether they’re legally in the United States.”