MILWAUKEE -- Immigrant rights group Voce de la Frontera is celebrating what they call a victory Thursday, July 13th -- albeit a small one. The Milwaukee Police Department reversed its controversial amended policy on immigration enforcement. This, after public outcry that the original changes were made behind closed doors and would lead to more crime and fear in the community.
Chanting in Spanish, "yes we can," hundreds of community members gathered in the lobby of City Hall to rally in support of immigrants rights.
"This was a victory that we had to win," said Voces de la Frontera Executive Director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz.
Voces de la Frontera Executive Director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, announced to the crowd that the community and the Milwaukee Police Department have reached an agreement to restore protections for immigrants in the city.
"Everyone is right now breathing a sign of relief that the City of Milwaukee is standing with immigrants," said Neumann-Ortiz.
Last week, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn added new language to the department's immigration enforcement policy. The department says the changes were necessary to comply with the rules of federal grants. Critics say the process was done without the public's input.
"It was done in secret and it could have resulted in real harm, real incidents of discrimination, fear among immigrants of reporting crimes, and the break up of families here in the City of Milwaukee," said Neumann-Ortiz.
At Thursday's Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (FPC) meeting, Assistant Chief James Harpole outlined several amendments to the already-amended policy. For example, the line, "police officers shall inform federal immigration officials" is now changed to, "police members shall use discretion consistent with federal law."
"That's important because we added another level, we added another decision-making mechanism into that particular section of the policy.
The FPC voted to adopt the amended policy, but had a stern message for Flynn.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released the following statement on the meeting:
"I am pleased with the action taken tonight by the members of the Fire and Police Commission.
The national changes to immigration policies and the tenor of the immigration debate have left many of us concerned about our Milwaukee neighbors and families.
We cannot allow fear and apprehension to cloud the daily lives of people who have chosen Milwaukee as the place to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Milwaukee is a City built by immigrants and a City that continues to grow strong because of our immigrant population.
I want to thank the Fire and Police Commission, Chief Flynn and Assistant Chief Harpole, State Representative JoCastaZamarripa, Alderman Jose Perez and members of Milwaukee’s Hispanic Community for tonight’s resolution."
The policy goes into effect immediately.