For eight days in July 2007, Voces de la Frontera took to the road for a ten city ‘Reality Tour’ across Wisconsin. Town hall style meetings heard personal testimony on the realities that immigrants face and a call for fair, national immigration reform.
All shades of opinion were invited to contribute to dialogue on a way forward.
The Reality Tour was both a chance to share information and a chance to learn from people in each city…
Many people spoke of frustration, a broken immigration system, and lack of legal channels. In Whitewater: “They tell us to get in line, but there is no line, they took the line away.” In Green Bay, a Mexican-American from Texas reminded us that the state was once part of Mexico; she said “my family didn’t cross the border, the border crossed my family.”
Personal stories defeated economic myths. A La Crosse farmer said of her workers: “They obey the laws, they’re decent people who want to make some money and go home. You think there’s enough people to work here? There’s not!” In Racine a realtor said: “Latino clients often buy homes that no one else will. When I drive by those houses, I see flowers, I see families. They are helping the housing market.” In Beloit: “Does the American economy benefit from immigration? Absolutely…they want immigrants to come, they just want to abuse them without giving us any rights.” In every city people reminded us that immigrants DO pay taxes.
Stories of hardship were shared, tears were shed. In Wausau: “I married an American citizen. It was a bad idea because he beat me.” In Milwaukee: “We’ve come to survive and overcome the poverty in our own country. We’re humiliated, we’re violated. We don’t come to rob, we just come to survive. We’re humans just like they are.”
Some locals had little sympathy. For them, American life under threat. A blue-collar worker in La Crosse: “I see what they do – we’re losing.” Another, “We’re going to be impoverished by these immigrants! America will become a third world country!”
But many locals gave support. In Appleton, “It seems that we caused this whole mess. I’m a father, I tell my son to clean his mess. We have to clean up our mess.”
Minds didn’t always meet, but most wanted to build justice, not fear. A man in Madison put it best: “Ideology divides, struggles and dreams unite… humanity has to prevail.”