MILWAUKEE (CN) – Hundreds of Wisconsinites took to the street Monday for a May Day march in support of immigrant rights and in protest of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
“This march will help us achieve immigration reform. We want our children to have a better future here in this country because we have more opportunities here. We are not criminals,” said Mercedes Flores, a protestor who emigrated from Mexico 15 years ago.
May Day is also International Workers’ Day, a holiday for labor in which people across the nation gather to support workers’ rights.
Union members have traditionally marched on May 1, but the day has also become significant for immigrants, ever since massive protests were held on May 1, 2006, opposing a proposed immigration enforcement bill.
In Milwaukee, people not only marched Monday for immigrant rights, but also in protest of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Clarke wants local law enforcement to have the same power as immigration officers to enforce federal immigration laws under the Department of Homeland Security’s 287(g) program.
“The program is racist and against the community — especially Latino workers — it will separate families,” Julio Arellano, a member of Voces de la Frontera, said.
A vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, Clarke was up last year for a top spot in the Department of Homeland Security during the presidential transition. Trump has aggressively pushed for immigration enforcement, including executive orders for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and travel bans targeting six Muslim-majority countries.
Now, Clarke is reportedly being considered for a different position within the DHS – assistant secretary of the Office of Partnership and Engagement.
He is also currently under investigation for his management of the Milwaukee County Jail, where four deaths have occurred since last April.
Under Clarke’s tenure, 38-year-old inmate Terrill Thomas died of dehydration in his cell last year. A newborn baby was also found dead last summer after corrections officers allegedly laughed off her inmate mother’s plea for help during and after she went into labor.
On Monday, people marched with signs that read “Sheriff Clarke stop separating Wisconsin families,” “Arrest Clarke no 287g!” and “Migration is beautiful,” while chants of “Si se puede” – which means, “Yes you can” – and “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA” roared across the crowd.
More than 140 mostly Latino-owned businesses are said to have closed throughout Wisconsin in support of May Day.
Voces de la Frontera, a local nonprofit dedicated to immigrant rights, planned the march in Milwaukee, which started in the Walker’s Point neighborhood and ended at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
Clarke is serving his fourth term as Milwaukee County Sheriff and is up for re-election next year.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department did not respond Monday to a request for comment on the protest.