Photo Credit: Twitter @ sherrillknezel

In Face of New Travel Ban, LULAC Demonstrates Unity for Human Dignity

By: Geoffrey Nolan, LULAC National Communications Associate

Last month, LULAC of Wisconsin joined other community organizations and held the Unity for Human Dignity town hall event in Milwaukee. Held shortly after President Trump enacted his first attempt at a Muslim ban, the event demonstrated the solidarity of the Milwaukee community to stand with immigrants, refugees, and their allies in the face of hostility. Hundreds of individuals from all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds came together in a moment of compassion to send a message to those forces seeking to divide us: immigrants and refugees are welcome in America.

Raul Ortiz, a refugee from Honduras shared his story of fleeing violence and finding a new home in America. Photo Credit: Lee Matz, Milwaukee Independent

The event was organized by the Unity for Human Dignity Coalition (U4HD) made up of LULAC and 14 other community organizations. The coalition counts on the membership of Latino groups, Jewish groups, refugee groups, and interfaith groups to advocate for the health and well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society. Like other Americans across the country, the members of the coalition were horrified by the President’s original executive order that banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, suspended the refugee program for 120 days, and indefinitely suspended the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States.

“It doesn’t matter what political party you belong to. When you see something is wrong, you say it’s wrong, and you come together and you do something about it,” said past LULAC National Vice President for the Midwest Darryl Morin, who helped organize the event and has helped lead LULAC efforts to fight against anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment in Wisconsin. According to Morin, the event was meant to highlight the dangers of putting a religious litmus test on refugees and immigrants entering the country and emphasize that the suspension of the refugee program would have life-or-death consequences on those fleeing violence and persecution.

Refugees from Southeast Asia, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Honduras shared their stories of fleeing persecution and finding a new home in America. Raul Ortiz, an 8-year-old child refugee from Honduras shared the story of his kidnapping by a criminal gang in Honduras and his journey to safety in the United States.

“My favorite president is Abraham Lincoln because he freed the slaves. I believe that President Donald Trump can do the same things for the refugees of Central America and all other refugees.” -Raul Ortiz, Honduran Refugee

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made a special appearance at the event and signed a resolution to demonstrate the city of Milwaukee’s opposition to the President’s executive order and reaffirmed his support for a Milwaukee that will continue to be a refuge to those who need it the most.

“The fear that I see, particularly in our Hispanic community right now, it’s real. Our city government is here to let you know that we understand your fears, and we don’t want you to be fearful.” -Mayor Tom Barrett, City of Milwaukee

Although the original executive order was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Trump administration has reissued the order with very few changes. Gone are the indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee program and the exceptions for refugees who are religious minorities from the countries they are fleeing. However, despite these cosmetic changes, this executive order is still a ban and will continue to have serious consequences on those fleeing violence all over the world.

Ever since our founding, the narrative of America as a land of immigrants and a beacon of freedom has been woven into our social consciousness and is at the core of our identity. Our hearts swell with pride when we think of the immigrant’s first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Our emotions overcome us when we hear stories like those of Raul Ortiz and the millions like him who leave everything behind to come to a new country and start over. This executive order attacks our fundamental values, our American identity, and our immigrant heritage. Despite the actions of the administration, LULAC will continue to ensure that the torch of the Statue of Liberty continues to shine for those who need it the most, and that the United States will always be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees.

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