Immigrant rights advocates call for a general strike

‘Day Without Immigrants’ is Monday

By: - October 6, 2021 6:15 am
Day three of the nine day march to Wisconsin's capital, demanding immigration reform from the federal government. (Photo | Joe Brusky)

A scene from the nine-day march to Wisconsin’s Capitol, earlier this year. Marchers, organized by Voces de la Frontera, demanded immigration reform from the federal government. (Photo | Joe Brusky)

The immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera on Tuesday announced plans for a statewide general strike to be held Monday, Oct. 11. The strike and student walkout, part of a series of nationwide days of action beginning on Monday, Indigenous People’s Day, is intended to underscore the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy and pressure congressional Democrats, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to keep a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in their Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill.

One-day “Day Without Immigrants” and “Day Without Latinos” work stoppages have been staged on different dates since 2006 to demonstrate the United States’ economic dependence on undocumented immigrants and call for immigration reform.

“As a movement for civil and labor rights for immigrant workers and their families, we will not accept a repeat of the betrayal of the Obama Administration that promised a path to citizenship but instead delivered more deportations and family separations,” Christine Nuemann Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, said in a statement. 

“The Obama administration’s failure to lead on immigration helped pave the path for the far right in 2016,” she added.

Christine Neumann Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera in a Zoom press conference Tuesday Oct. 5 | Screenshot
Christine Neumann Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera in a Zoom press conference Tuesday Oct. 5 | Screenshot

In a Zoom press conference organized by Voces de la Frontera, Neumann Ortiz, immigrant essential workers, and John Rosenow, a dairy farmer from western Wisconsin, described their plans to participate in the general strike and their hope that Democrats would fight for a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrant essential workers, DACA recipients and farmworkers.

“Our community mobilized to get the votes for them to put them in the positions they’re in right now,” Eduardo Perea, an undocumented essential worker who has worked in the United States for more than 30 years, said of Biden and other Democrats. “It’s only fair and just that they fulfill the promises that they made to us on their campaigns.”

Eduardo Perea in the Zoom press conference organized by Voces de la Frontera Oct. 5, 2021 | Screenshot
Eduardo Perea in the Zoom press conference organized by Voces de la Frontera Oct. 5, 2021 | Screenshot

After knocking on doors and getting out the vote, immigrants and particularly young people will be “very disillusioned” if the Democrats fail to push for a path to citizenship, said Blanca Cano, who owns a small embroidery business in Waukesha that will be closing for the day on Monday as part of the general strike. 

On Sept. 29, the Senate parliamentarian rejected the Biden administration’s $107 billion plan to include a path to citizenship in the budget reconciliation package. Voces is urging Biden and Harris to ignore the parliamentarian’s advice. 

“We believe that they are taking the parliamentarian’s advice as an excuse to not do anything,” said Cano. “This is the time. We are here to let them know that we fought a lot for them. They came to our home to tell us that they’re gonna do something for us. And now they are not doing anything. They are just making excuses and excuses. And they know this is the only time that they can make this possible.”

Speaking from his dairy farm in Cochrane, Rosenow pointed out that the dairy industry is one of the largest employers in Wisconsin. “There’s lots of cows out here, so who takes care of them?” he said. “Right now, about 85% of the milk harvested from those cows is by immigrants.” Immigrant workers are “vital to the dairy industry,” he added.

Dairy farmer John Rosenow in the Voces press conference Oct. 5 2021 | Screenshot
Dairy farmer John Rosenow in the Voces press conference Oct. 5 2021 | Screenshot

“They’re here 24 hours a day. They work at night. They work on weekends and they work holidays and they work just as hard as I do,” Rosenow said. The fact that Democrats hold the White House and both houses of Congress presents a unique opportunity to finally “get the job done” on immigration reform, he said, “so our guys can have driver’s licenses, they don’t have to live in the shadows. They already are paying all the taxes; they already are participating in the economy — they’re keeping local restaurants and local food places supplied. I mean, they’re a part of our existence, and I can’t think of anybody I would rather have as a neighbor than the immigrants that I know.”

Rosenow and other dairy farmers are going to operate with a skeleton crew on Monday, planning in advance for the “day without Latinos,” which would be “disastrous” if it happened spontaneously, he added. “The cows do not need to suffer and they won’t,” he said. “I know our guys will be here at 4 in the morning to milk the cows and they’ll be here at midnight. … They’re the backbone of the dairy industry, and we really appreciate it.”


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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.