MILWAUKEE -- Thousands of Latinos and immigrants from around the state of Wisconsin rallied in Madison on Thursday, February 18th -- "A Day Without Latinos." The effects of that effort were felt across the state, including in the Milwaukee area.
Those protesting Thursday oppose an Assembly bill that they say would lead police to investigate a person’s immigration status and detain people for deportation. They say a proposed Senate bill would block counties from issuing local identification cards to people who don’t have access to a state ID.
There were large crowds in Madison on Thursday, and closed businesses and empty desks at schools in Milwaukee.
Those expected to shop at the El Rey grocery chain on Thursday were met with locked doors and bright, bold signs explaining why the stores were closed.
"I was looking for food -- but it's a good reason. I like it," Gloria Ortiz said.
Schools like Cristo Rey Jesuit High School near Miller Park Way and National Avenue were open Thursday, but class sizes were noticeably smaller.
"Some families did call in and ask ahead of time about this," Rene Howard-Paez said.
Howard-Paez said school officials supported students that traded a day in the classroom for a day at the Capitol.
"We`re excited that they were able to have an opportunity to kind of find their own voice and participate in something like that process, where you can protest or say what you believe in or what you don`t believe in," Howard-Paez said.
Students who were in class at Cristo Rey on Thursday talked about what it means to protest, what was happening in Madison on Thursday, and what the passage of these bills could mean for them.
"We gave them an opportunity to speak with each other so they could talk about 'what does this mean for me? What does it mean for you? What does it mean for your family as opposed to mine?'" Howard-Paez said.
School officials said they hadn't heard back from any of the students that went to Madison, as of early Thursday evening. However, they said they were looking forward to hearing about their experience on Friday.