May 26, 2021
Contact: Jasmine Nazarett, [email protected], (954) 471-9080;
Jessica Schmidt, [email protected], (414) 469-9206.
Voces de la Frontera & Milwaukee Area Labor Council Members Meet with US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh
Six essential workers, union members and immigrant rights activists highlight the need for the Biden administration to act boldly and deliver a pathway to citizenship
Six essential workers, union members and immigrant rights activists meet with Secretary Walsh to highlight the need for the Biden administration to act boldly and deliver a pathway to citizenship Photo credit: Joe Brusky / MTEA
Milwaukee, Wisconsin–Today, six members of Voces de la Frontera and local union members met with the Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to highlight the contributions of essential workers in their communities and the need for immediate action by the administration to protect them.
In a post-event statement Secretary Walsh said, “In order to build an inclusive workforce and economy, we need to value and protect the rights of immigrant workers. The American dream should be accessible to all working people in this country.”
Voces de la Frontera executive director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, asked that Secretary Walsh take the requests of Wisconsin immigrant essential workers back to Washington and to President Biden directly, saying:
“What we’re asking of the Biden administration and Democrats is that citizenship be included as part of a comprehensive response to the pandemic in order to protect the lives of essential frontline workers. Immigrants are disproportionately on the frontlines at higher risk of sickness and death, and are part of the solution for economic, health, and moral reasons.
The second request for the Biden Administration is to respond to cases of retaliation where people are fearful to come forward because of immigration status amd file complaints when their rights have been violated. . What can be done administratively when people come forward to assert their labor rights to offer legal protections through a pathway to citizenship?”
During the roundtable discussion, Secretary Walsh shared his Irish heritage and described his own family’s history of immigration and their struggles, and understanding first hand the struggles of undocumented workers, saying “no one should live in fear.” He unequivocally shared his support for a path to citizenship and committed to share the message with President Biden
“We must work together to create workplaces and communities that are welcoming, safe and fair for everyone,” said Pam Fendt, President of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council. “Immigrants and recipients of TPS, DACA, and DED help to build, feed, serve, educate and care for our nation. We need a broad and inclusive pathway to citizenship that will help raise standards for all working people and ensure that we can all thrive. We call on Senators to immediately pass the PRO Act and enact immigration reforms that reunite families and create the pathway to citizenship.”
Essential workers from a variety of sectors were represented, including construction, public education, food industry and carpentry.
At the roundtable, Eduardo Perea shared that he’s called Wisconsin home for more than 30 years and has four children who would be left without their parents unless Congress acts. He said, “Immigrant essential workers deserve the necessary resources to continue doing our jobs, and safely. My whole life in this country I’ve been waiting for lawmakers to act and pass legislation to protect undocumented immigrants. President Biden and Democrats: act now and deliver on the long overdue promise of citizenship.”
Alondra Garcia accompanied her father, Gilberto Garcia, who is also an immigrant essential worker in the food industry. Alondra shared her experience of being a DACA holder and a bilingual elementary school teacher in Milwaukee. She said, “Creating a roadmap to citizenship for people like me will provide the opportunity to vote for leaders who represent and value immigrants like me.”
Javier Vasquez is a former TPS recipient from El Salvador, who has family with TPs, and needed permanent protections. Javier is a carpentry worker and a member of Carpenters Local 264 who has worked throughout the pandemic building and maintaining infrastructure in southeastern Wisconsin.
Gabby Benaventes is a member of Madison Teachers Incorporated (MTI) and teaches middle school students in Madison. As an immigrant trans woman with DACA, Gabby shared her fears of living in limbo without a permanent status. She added, “Without a roadmap to citizenship, I am vulnerable to deportation, as are the 11 million undocumented immigrants. For the trans community, many would be left vulnerable to violence in their countries of origin.”