Immigrant, student, labor and faith communities in Madison joined forces Friday for the National Day of Action against immigration raids, identification processes and new regulations of the social security "No Match" letters.
A group of protesters marched down State Street and rallied at the Capitol building Friday morning, demanding attention to U.S. immigration policy.
"Basically, we want immigration reform," said Ismael Cuevas, a University of Wisconsin freshman and immigrant. "We are looking for a bill passed that will benefit people coming to America that will help the economy."
The march began at Library Mall and proceeded down State Street, turning the heads of pedestrians. Protestors held signs delineating their cause such as "No to Real I.D." and "No Human is Illegal."
There was generally a positive response from onlookers, some of whom even joined in on the mass of protesters chanting, "Si se puede," meaning “Yes, I can.” Passers-by also stopped to take pictures of the protest and inquire about their cause.
"If I had more time I'd join them,” said Dan Hill, a Madison resident who passed by the march. “Immigration reform is definitely needed."
The rally congregated at the Capitol where speakers explained some of the deep-seated issues with national and local immigration enforcement.
"We want immigration reform, we want to stop the raids, and we want identification for everybody," said Alex Gillis, director of the Immigrant Workers' Union.
The number of immigration raids has increased dramatically and policies concerning the matter have been put on hold indefinitely, according to Gillis.
"The immigration policy in this country is terrible," said activist Sandy Loren, a Madison resident. "The government needs to come to terms with the fact that these immigrants make up a huge percentage of our low-wage labor, and they should be treated with respect and dignity."
Loren said many immigrants living in the United States are being torn from their families due to the current immigration enforcement policies. He said no human being should be considered “illegal” and children should not be left without one or both parents because of immigration policies.
Loren also said the government is making it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to get identification by imposing an act that federally standardized the design, issuance and management of state driver's licenses. Also proposed was the "No Match" rule last year that would use social security records for immigration enforcement. U.S. citizens and legal residents risk losing their jobs if information in their social security report does not match up perfectly.
"The problem with ‘No Match' is people are losing their jobs due to system errors in their social security report," said Patrick Hickey, director of the Workers Rights Center. "Information might not match up due to things like misspellings, name changes and marriages."
However, U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has been a strong advocate for immigration reform.
“When Republicans had the majority in Congress, we tried, only to be stymied by the actions of those who believed in providing amnesty to illegal immigrants,” Sensenbrenner said in a release.