Young Latinos involved in immigration rally - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Young Latinos involved in immigration rally

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Young people are getting involved in what's expected to be a huge rally at the state Capitol Thursday in support of the Latino community.

Voces de la Frontera is hosting a gathering to oppose what the organization calls anti-immigration measures in Wisconsin. The event is called A Day Without Latinos, in an effort to show the community just how much of an impact Latinos have on the local economy.

This week, the Assembly has passed a bill to ban sanctuary cities for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The Senate passed a bill to stall Milwaukee's efforts to provide local photo IDs to those who have difficultly obtaining state IDs, including illegal immigrants.

"The message that we hope the people see is that we are vital to this community and with these bills the message is that you are not welcome here," says Mario Garcia Sierra, with the new, Madison chapter of Voces de la Frontera. "They do not think, what would happen if [the Latino community] wouldn't be here? That's the message for people to see, that we are vital for the daily activities of almost all industries in this state."

Thousands are expected to attend the rally, including some coming by bus from Milwaukee. Some businesses are showing their support, including a few restaurants that are closing Thursday to allow their employees to attend the rally.

The Madison Metropolitan School District is expecting lower attendance than usual, as families take their kids out of class to be at the event. Nearly a third of the students at MMSD are Hispanic, a population that's been growing steadily in the past decade, according to district officials.

Yaritza Brito, a senior at Madison Memorial High School, has been active in efforts to reach out to lawmakers to stop the measures. She's shared her story at hearings and worked with city officials, including the mayor and police chief on the issues.

"A lot of our parents already live in fear and a lot of us are born in the U.S. so we can become the voice of our parents," Brito tells 27 News. "We are the next generation, so we need to get involved in a lot of political stuff because that's what's going on right now."

Brito says she came to the U.S. from Mexico with her family at 2-years-old. Her parents have worked hard to support the family, her father working two jobs making low wages. She says it's hard to hear people pushing immigration legislation because they don't understand stories like hers.

MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham tells 27 News she supports families' rights to participate in demonstrations, though she'd prefer to see students in class Thursday. 

"We'll continue to provide tools and resources for our teachers to open up discussions about topics like immigration," Cheatham says. "It's very important that everyone knows that we as district employees would never ask a child about their immigration status, but we think it's an important, real-life topic that affects all of us and that we should be informed about what our rights are."

Cheatham sent a note to parents this week, informing them about the rally and urging them to talk to their kids about the issues. Hundreds are planning to show up at the Capitol instead of going to school, according to Brito who is organizing the efforts.

A Day Without Latinos rally is set to begin around 10 a.m. on the State Street side of the Capitol Square. Organizers say they'll spend a few hours there, both inside and out to make their presence known. They're also working with a church near the Square to serve as a place for families to get out of the cold, if needed.

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