Activists in Madison, Wisconsin wanted to show lawmakers what this country would look like if all the Latinos just up and disappeared.
Demonstrators got together and organized “A Day Without Latinos” in protest of a pair of bills that they claim are anti-immigrant and anti-Latino.
The protest called for Latinos to walk out of their jobs for one day to demonstrate against Assembly Bill 450 and Senate Bill 533.
AB 450 bars the creation of “sanctuary cities” where police officers are not allowed to ask people their immigration status and SB 533 prohibits cities from giving photo IDs to people who are not eligible for state IDs.
The Madison Police Department said approximately 14,000 people congregated in front of the state’s capitol building and no one was arrested. “It's a very, very peaceful crowd," the official reportedly told Fusion. "Lots of families there with children."
Wisconsin is famous for its cheese and the state relies heavily on Latinos to make its signature export. Mexican immigrants make up a whopping 90 percent of workers in the state's dairy industry, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Several businesses with predominately Latino staff were forced to close for part or all of the day while their workers attended the action. But, many employers actually stood in solidarity with their staff.
“We just had to make a decision based on what we believe in,” Graze restaurant owner Tory Miller told Wisconsin Public Radio. “Not necessarily how much money we could make, or how much money we were going to lose.”
It benefits businesses to allow their workers to protest these bills because if AB 450 and SB 533 were to pass, they would negatively impact business owners' livelihoods. Undocumented immigrants would begin living in fear and as a result would neglect their duties or begin to perform poorly.
"[The bills] increase the fear of anyone who is undocumented, and it's going to negatively impact the state in general, because if people think they're gonna be asked for their papers they're not gonna go to school, they're not gonna go to work; they're gonna go more underground," immigration attorney Marisabel Cabrera told Fusion. "And that's not gonna be helpful for anybody."
These bills are reminiscent of Arizona’s discriminatory “papers please” law, SB 1070, which required police officers to ask people from immigrant communities for proof of documentation during interactions.
While the GOP is likely delighted that Wisconsin is considering these bills, immigrants who live, work and attend school in the state are certainly not. The fact that their absence greatly impacted local businesses is proof that — whether lawmakers want to admit it or not — the United States would be lost without Latinos.
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