“A Day Without Latinos:” El Rey stores in Milwaukee will close so employees can rally in Madison

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MILWAUKEE -- "A Day Without Latinos." A Milwaukee grocery store chain is closing its doors so employees can travel to Madison on Thursday, February 18th. It is part of a statewide day of protest against what some call anti-immigrant legislation.

El Rey

El Rey

Stocking produce is one of the many duties at El Rey.

The Hispanic grocery store chain has been in Milwaukee for 38 years. Never before has the entire operation shut down.

"Even if we want to open -- our employees would not come," Ernesto Villarreal, co-owner of El Rey said.

Villarreal is closing up shop on Thursday so he and his employees can head to Madison.

Ernesto Villarreal, co-owner of El Rey

Ernesto Villarreal, co-owner of El Rey

"Almost everybody is going, and I think that it's a big message," Villarreal said.

Thursday, February 18th has been designated: "A Day Without Latinos."

Every one of El Rey's 400 employees will have an opportunity to attend a rally in Madison.

"A lot of restaurants are closing. Grocery stores are closing," Villarreal said.

Supporters of Hispanic and immigrant issues will mobilize in Madison to protest against several bills relating to identification cards and undocumented citizens.

Capitol in Madison

Capitol in Madison

Those who are planning on attending the rally say the hope is that their absence will be felt in Milwaukee.

El Rey

El Rey

"(El Rey) is a chain of four grocery stores that are absolutely central.  There will be a noticeable difference," Debra Brehmer said.

Brehmer says she and her son are regulars ate El Rey's location off National Avenue.

"They are giving their employees an opportunity to protest what they believe in," Joe Friedman, Brehmer's son said.

Villarreal says protecting the rights of immigrants is too important, and closing his stores on Thursday, February 18th will allow his company to offer its full support to the cause.

El Rey

El Rey


  • tal

    Wow. Cant believe that people actually think that way. Shame on YOU. Immigration should DEPORT whites back to EUROPE WHERE U PEOPLE ARE FROM. THIS IS NOT YOUR LAND, NEVER WAS.. YOU PEOPLE ARE FROM EUROPE NOT USA, PLEASE GO BACK TO YOUR LAND..EUROPE!!!!!!

    • Opinion8d

      Right….let’s just let anyone into the country that wants to come?? Is that what you’re saying? Who should be here then??? You are clueless to the issues at hand -it’s not about stopping immigration -it’s about LEGAL immigration. The ‘White Europeans’ that came here helped build this country to what it is today and earned everything that it is today -it was founded on laws and should remain that way!

  • Kari

    If you are here LEGALLY and pay TAXES, then there is no problem! If you aren’t here legally, then you are do NOT deserve the benefits of a LEGAL citizen, period. How hard is that to understand??

  • Maria

    So El Rey wants to mislead people about the intent of two bills? Well it looks like this Latina will be participating in A Life Without El Rey. I can get all the same things from Petes Fruit Market and Woodmans.

      • maria

        What kind of Latin a am I? The kind that actually reads the bills and doesn’t just accept the spoon fed nonsense that Voces dishes out. One bill will help eliminate dangerous unlicensed drivers. The other will likely only affect undocumented Iindividuals who commit crimes. No one is going to be stopped randomly and asked for papers…which is the bs that Voces is peddling to get us all angry. Get educated or get led.

      • Juan

        Maria, I don’t know your experiences. Our names may not obvious for some of us. Mine is. I have gotten stopped for made up reasons repeatedly in Mequon and Waukesha. One time with a coworker in the car during lunch. That time we were stopped where many more coworkers saw us and asked what happened. The coworker in the car was amazed and told the story. The could not believe it. I told them that this was what it is like to live as me.
        You are correct, people will not be stopped ramdomly. It will be targeted and I can’t wait till they pick me.
        P.S.Don’t question my education and realize that our realities are different.

  • dighard

    My ? The media will not ask. What about the non-latino employees????
    Must they take off too???
    Are there any other employees other then Latinos??
    If not what do you call it, Racism….
    This is a kick in the teeth to all legal citizens.

    • mikey jr

      Hopefuly u allways stay good nd u nd ur kids never get sick or need help from anyone nd ur falilia stay happy for ever nd have a nice day ……..!

    • lupita

      U dont have a life. Get one. I bet u u wore never loved by ur familia ur sad……… find something beter to do. Go hugg ur mom tell her u love her. Do something beter…

  • Roberto tj

    If that law passes. A hole lot of hispanic ppl can get kidnapp or extorter or raped by other ppl that dont like us. nd can not call the police nd thats not right…… !!!!!!!!
    Bad ppl go to jail nd get deported anyways. But y bother ppl that go to work everyday nd got famila nd thats all we live for i fiel relly upset with thoes ppl it hurts cuz of my kids all i want is to be with them ……..

    • Natasha

      This is EXACTLY like saying that a person who has committed a crime and has a warrant out for their arrest will not want to contact the police if they become a victim of crime themselves. Do you see how hypocritical and illogical your argument is?

  • Roc

    I don’t get it.. If you’re here illegally why should you get anything. If you’re here on a Visa or you have permission whatever to be here and work. Pay your taxes and yes there should be a special ID card for you.. But in no way should you be able to vote until you become a US citizen.. I don’t understand why you think illegal immigrants are OK…. Become citizens and this problem will go away. It’s not just Mexicans it’s all nationalities.

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