Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, Named one of USA Today’s Women of the Century

PHOTO: GARY C. KLEIN, USA TODAY NETWORK , ILLUSTRATION: USA TODAY NETWORK

This week, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, co-founder and executive director of Voces de la Frontera, was named as one of USA Today’s Women of the Century. This prestigious award was bestowed to 10 influential women in Wisconsin. Her fellow awardees include Senator Tammy Baldwin, former Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir, and civil rights activist Velvalea “Vel” R. Phillips, amongst others.

It is no surprise that Neumann-Ortiz was named one of Wisconsin’s Women of the Century. Her decades of tirelessly fighting for immigrant and labor rights has changed the landscape of immigration rights not only in Wisconsin, but nationally. Neumann-Ortiz founded Voces de la Frontera in 1994 when she was still a student at UT-Austin in Texas. The organization was originally a small bilingual newspaper focusing on maquiladora rights on the Texas/Mexico border. 

When Neumann-Ortiz moved to Milwaukee in 1998, Voces moved with her and slowly became the powerhouse worker and immigrant rights advocacy organization it is today. At first, Voces de in Milwaukee was a small, volunteer-run workers center that offered legal assistance and rights education to immigrants. Today, Voces has nearly 60 staff members, a 501c4 arm used for express, partisan advocacy, and chapters statewide. Next month Voces will be opening its brand new building on Historic Mitchell St, which will be able to host and support the Latinx communities of Milwaukee’s south side better than ever before.

It is impossible to pick one, but perhaps the campaign that elevated Voces de la Frontera to the national leader in immigration reform that it is today was the 2006 “Day Without Latinos” march, organized by Neumann-Ortiz. The march in 2006 led to similar marches across the country, and it is now an annual event that draws tens of thousands of people. In 2020, Voces is now trailblazing the fight for immigrant workers’ rights during COVID-19 with the founding of the Voces de la Frontera Essential Workers Rights Network. Furthermore, Voces de la Frontera Action is mobilizing the Latinx and multiracial vote in Wisconsin, perhaps the most important tipping point state in this historic election. We congratulate Neumann-Ortiz for her award, but we are not surprised: any Latinx immigrant in Wisconsin can tell you that she has been changing lives for the better for decades. ¡Adelante, si se puede!

For more information, reach out to Communications Director Jacquelyn Kovarik at jacquelyn@vdlf.org or 414-436-9822.