Mexican Migrant Workers in Mid-Century Wisconsin

Mexican Migrant Workers in Mid-Century Wisconsin

Record date: Oct 17, 2017

Sergio González, Doctoral Student in the Department of History at UW-Madison, shares stories of Mexican citizens and Texas-born Mexican Americans who were recruited to work in Wisconsin’s agricultural, industrial and transportation industries in the mid twentieth century.

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Episode Transcript

Today we are pleased to

introduce Sergio González

as part of the Wisconsin Historical Museum's

History Sandwiched In

Lecture Series.

The opinions expressed today

are those of the presenters,

and are not necessarily

those of the

Wisconsin Historical Society,

or the museum's employees.

Sergio M. Gonzalez is

a Doctoral candidate

in the Department of History

at the University of


and an organizer for the

Dane Sanctuary Coalition.

Faced with an immigration,

working class,

and religious history,

his research investigates

the development of

Milwaukee's Latino community,

and their efforts to create

social justice movements

throughout the 20th Century.

He is the author of

Mexicans in Wisconsin,

recently published by the

Wisconsin Historical

Society Press.

So, please join me in welcoming

Sergio González.

(audience applauding)

Good afternoon, everybody.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Hi there. Hi, yeah.

This is, I guess, officially

my first book talk,

so it's a pleasure

to be with you today.

Book just came out on Friday.

And what I'd like to

do here with you today,

is share a little bit,

some of those stories

that come out in that book.

And I'd like to begin

our time together today

in the hot summer of 1949,

in the agricultural town of

Waupun, in central Wisconsin.

Our story is going to begin

with migrant worker families.

Texas born, and of

Mexican descent.

People who call

themselves Tejanos.

So, Texas-Mexican, Tejanos.

During the summer of 1949,

a group of migrant families

ventured into the

Fond du Lac Park,

to cool off at the county pool.

They were met,

however, by a custodian

named Seymour Patrick,

who refused to allow the

migrant children and

their families, to swim.

When asked by the

local press why he had

restricted their entry, the

custodian declared, quote,

"They say these people

are American citizens.

"When you become an

American citizen,

"you should talk the language.

"Lots of these people don't."

Patrick explained to local

press that the youngsters,

who would have to

confine their play

to the Waupun City Park,

saying that some, quote,

"White parents didn't

want their children

"to play with the

Mexicans, because the

"fears of these

children spreading polio

"among city residents."

Patrick threatened to

close the entire pool,

rather than to allow

Tejanos to enter.

The Fond du Lac

custodian's actions

and comments prompted

the swift backlash

from community organizations

and town officials.

The League of Women

Voters of Waupun

appealed the park officer's

restriction of migrants

to the county board, and

the League argued that

Tejano children's status

as American citizens,

entitled them to the,

quote, "Same privileges

"other citizens of

Wisconsin have."

Within a matter of

days, the Fond du Lac

County Parks Committee

issued a statement,

refusing to tolerate any

discrimination whatsoever

in county parks, and forcing

the offending custodian

to resign his position.

County officials worried about

the negative images that,

what they call the quote,

"racial difficulties

"in their communities," might

send to the broader public.

And specifically they

were worried about

what this image might

send to migrant families

still living in Texas.

In other words, those

migrant workers who

might not decide

to come to Waupun

because of the situation.

To review the migrant

situation in Waupun,

local politicians establish

a community council

on human relations

to review the issue.

Comprised of civic leaders,

and members of

religious organizations,

the council expressed

a desire to quote,

"Break down social

prejudices by working

"across racial lines,

and increase contact

"between the Waupun community

and Tejano migrants."

The common council developed

a summer school program

for migrant children

for the 1950

and 1951 summer season.

Teachers arrived in Waupun

to begin instruction

mid-June, using

loaned school buses

to transport migrant

children to the local school.

The teachers taught

reading and math,

and they emphasized English

language instruction,

which is a little

ironic considering what

the custodian had said earlier.

Each day at noon,

teachers shuttled

the school children

to the city park,

where they ate lunches with

the local Waupun children,

as a planned form of

inter-ethnic interchange.

In addition to

classroom instruction,

staff organized

weekly family nights

at each participating

migrant camp,

that included baseball games,

community singing, and films.

Their summer school

lasted for eight weeks,

ending with a celebratory picnic

at the closing of the season.

Despite the volunteer's

hopes however,

that the summer program

would break down

what they call this wall of

opposition against migrants,

and instead be replaced

with what they called,

a bridge of understanding.

They were very poetic

with their language.

Late in opposition towards

the outward support

for the inclusion of the

Tejanos's and Waupun's

community continued

throughout the early 1950s.

It's a very ironic picture

from the Milwaukee Journal.

Canners who lived in the area,

who worked in the area,

remained indifferent

to the reforms,

and local merchants

largely avoided, or they

shunned the migrants

during their stay in the town.

Mayor Frank Trilling, of Waupun,

who had been outspoken in his

support of migrant issues,

and the council's

work since 1949,

paid the ultimate

political price in 1951,

when he lost his bid for

reelection, in large part

because of his support

for the migrant workers.

Ironically, this is how

the state media portrayed

Waupun Human Rights

Council's work.

A problem solved.

Wisconsin, long considered

America's dairyland,

had the potential

to earn the moniker

of the nation's salad bowl,

in the 1950s and 1960s,

thanks in large

part to the work of

Mexican-descent laborers.

The state-central

counties of Portage,

Waupaca, Adams, Waushara,

Marquette, Green Lake, and Wood,

relied every year

on more than 10,000

Tejano migrant workers

to plant, harvest,

and process potatoes,

lettuce, carrots,

onions, cucumbers,

peppers, and sugar beets.

Despite their importance,

the development

of the state's agricultural

industry however,

Mexican-descent workers

like those in Waupun,

arrived in Wisconsin

to find themselves

in a tenuous economic

and social standing,

as they faced

substandard housing,

poor wages, and discrimination

of the receiving communities.

Throughout the 1950s,

religious organizations

and state commissions grappled

with how best to integrate

these migrants into

the rest of the state.

Wisconsin advocates argued

that the exploitation

of migrant families

effected not only

the migrants themselves,

but also left

what they called

an irreparable scar

on the moral character of the communities that received them.

For those with whom a moral

or a religious argument

had no standing.

Activists and state

commissioners instead turned

to financial considerations.

So, organizations like

the Governor's Commission

on Human Rights

reminded Wisconsinites

that the economic

implications of keeping

Tejanos on the

margins of society.

Rebecca Barton, Director of

the Governor's Commission,

for example, hoped that growers

would come to understand

that, "It was good business to

treat the migrant decently,

"because he's an

economic asset."

Despite the best

efforts of advocates,

most of Wisconsin's

growers and canners

struggled to recognize

the economic importance,

much less the

humane significance

of offering even the

most basic of guarantees

to the migrant workers

who traveled to their

camps every year.

Throughout the 1950s

and early 1960s,

organizations like

the Catholic Church,

the Wisconsin

Council of Churches,

and the Governor's

Commission on Human Rights

were mostly unable to

modify the systemic issues

that allowed for

migrants to earn less

than a living wage, that

forced them to live in,

and work in

sub-human conditions,

and made them pariahs in

many of the communities

in which they traveled to.

Ultimately, it would be

the workers themselves

who would push

for substantive change.

By the mid-1960s,

Tejano migrants who

called Wisconsin

home every summer,

began the process of

organizing themselves

into a labor union

to fight for change

on their own terms.

Their organization,

Obreros Unidos,

who we'll finish

our talk with today,

believed that the

dramatic shifts in policy,

and not just changing

the attitudes

and minds of Wisconsinites,

would be needed

to in fact make

meaningful transformations

in Wisconsin's society.

Before we get to

the 1960s though,

we're gonna start a

little bit farther back.

Midwestern growers had

recruited Mexican-descent people

since the earliest decades

of the 20th Century.

During the late 1920s,

and throughout the 1930s,

approximately 3,000

Tejanos, people of

Mexican descent from Texas,

came to Wisconsin annually.

The United State's

entry into World War II

heralded a dramatic

demographic shift,

as well as an expansion

of agricultural production

in the state.

So, from 1940 to 1946,

approximately 140,000 people

left their rural communities,

and moved into urban centers.

They were looking for

jobs, they were looking

for better paying

positions, and they were

looking for new opportunities.

This was happening all

across the United States.

And political

leaders in Washington

were dealing with these

wartime demographic changes.

And the manpower

shortages that threatened

to put the United States

in a very perilous position

during World War II.

Their solution came through

guest worker programs

from Mexico and the Caribbean.

These multi-national

agreements allowed

Wisconsin farmers to

enlist male workers

from Mexico and the Caribbean,

as well as prisoners

of war from Germany,

to work primarily in the

harvest of sugar beets

and cherries, as well as

pea and corn canneries.

The most important

of these agreements

came in 1942, when the

United States signed

the Mexican Farm

Labor Agreement.

Also known as the

bracero program.

The program, which

lasted throughout the war

and well into the 1960s,

brought hundreds of thousands

of Mexican nationals as guest

workers to the United States.

And while most of those

workers ended up working

in California,

and the Southwest,

and along the Pacific

Coast, Wisconsin contracted

4,800 braceros

throughout World War II.

Under the negotiated

contract stipulation

set by the US and the

Mexican governments,

Mexican migrant workers

coming to the United States

were guaranteed paid transport

and food while traveling

to their work site,

and they were promised

to be paid the

local minimum wage.

The US government also

promised to extend

the same benefits

to Mexican workers

regarding housing,

sanitation, workplace safety,

and medical attention

as was available for

US citizen workers.

For those bracero

workers who actually

arrived in Wisconsin

in the 1940s however,

those explicit

contractual obligations

never actually appeared.

Laborers arriving

yearly by railway,

would first come to

Chicago in early April.

Where because of the

constant movement of soldiers

going out to the

front, and supplies

headed out to war,

they were forced

to wait for days on the

train station platform,

with access to regular meals, and without any sort of shelter.

Eventually arriving

to their work sites

here in Wisconsin,

these Mexican laborers

immediately found

reason for concern.

Instead of finding

adequate living quarters,

Mexican workers were

forced to live in

repurposed box cars

with poor ventilation,

and inadequate restrooms.

They found unreliable

medical care,

as company doctors

slackened the standards

for medical examinations.

They do things like when someone

would come with some sort of

bronchitis, they would say

this is just a bad cold,

and put them back to work.

Because this was an investment

that the employer had made

to bring the worker

to the United States.

To protect its citizens

working in the Unites States,

the Mexican government

sanctioned those states

that failed to hold offending

employees accountable.

The Mexican government

penalized Wisconsin

multiple times throughout

the 1940s and 1950s,

because of both

working conditions

and the social

circumstances that both


workers from Mexico,

so Mexican nationals, but

also Mexican-descent citizens

born in the United States,

like those Tejanos we talked about in Waupun,

faced throughout

Wisconsin communities.

So a number of times,

Wisconsin was actually

blacklisted from

receiving Mexican workers

from the Mexican state.

Other states on that

list of blacklists,

were Texas and Louisiana.

So maybe not the best

place Wisconsin wanted

to find itself if terms

of employee relations.

Following the expansive

agricultural dive

of World War II, the

number of Wisconsin crops

raised and harvested

for canning leapt upward

in the subsequent decades.

Before the start of the

war, individual farmers

could harvest their own crops,

and deliver them to

canneries the following day.

Throughout the 1950s

however, farmers were

responsible for hundreds

of thousands of acres

of field with peas, sweet

corn, cucumbers for pickles,

cherries, snap peas, lima beans,

sugar beets, and tomatoes.

And who did these farmers

turn to for migrant work?

People from Texas.

Growers and canners concentrated

the recruitment efforts

on these Texas-born,

Mexican-American families,

also known as Tejanos.

In the immediate post-war years,

Tejanos accounted for nearly

85% of migrant workers

here in the state.

Throughout the 1950s,

between 10 to 14,000

migrant laborers

made the way to towns

like Wautoma, Oconto,

Rosendale, Lomira, Fox Lake,

from Texas every single summer,

helping the state keep

its lead in the canning

of peas, sweet corn, and beets.

The migrant crews

usually consisted

of groups of families,

ranging from 10 to 30

men, women, and children,

who traveled by car,

or by covered truck, or

sometimes by uncovered truck.

Nearly all workers

that arrived from Texas

came in family units, all

of whom worked in the fields,

including the children.

These families often

found two forms of housing

available for them in

Wisconsin in the 1950s.

The first, the

more desired type,

was provided by

the larger growers.

And these locations,

"adequate lodging,"

meant giving an amount

of space for a person,

having a

weatherproof unit,

located on a

well-drained piece of land.

So that was that

standard, right?

A ceiling, well-drained

piece of land.

The housing would most

likely have electricity,

although not always.

Would have some sort of

accessible running water.

Would have some form

of beds or bedding.

Adequate toilets and

garbage facilities.

And windows that

could be used to

keep out the bugs in

the summer seasons.

This form of lodging, as

one researcher who went

into the camps noted,

was provided by employers

who saw migrants as quote,

"fellow human beings".

And who believed that they

were employing laborers

and respectful partners,

in an honorable enterprise.

There was a second form of

housing available, however.

Often provided by

smaller growers.

Often with a much different

reality for migrants.

Researchers refer to these as,

"hovels which defy description".

These arrangements were

typically any type of shack,

worn out building,

or abandoned dwelling

a grower could cobble together.

No care taking, no care

was taken to provide

running water, sanitation, or

bedding for migrant families.

This is a space from the 1960s,

when we could expect

some running water,

but you can see the

shower is right there,

not necessarily ones

that would respect

a person's privacy.

According to a 1948 report,

1/3 of the housing units

provided for migratory families

were unfit for human occupancy.

Faced with these

conditions, migrants found

no form of recourse through

Federal or Wisconsin laws

regulating their working

or camp conditions.

Migrant workers

actually, throughout the--

most of the 20th Century

were excluded from

most Federal

protective legislation,

especially those passed

during the New Deal era.

Including things like the

Fair Labor Standards Act,

the Social Security Act,

and the National

Labor Relations Act.

And we can talk about that in

the question answer at the end,

why they were purposefully

kept out of those pieces

of legislation.

And so because they weren't

a part of that legislation,

migrant workers

lacked any protections

in regard to minimum wages,

workman's compensation,

old age and

survivor's insurance,

unemployment insurance, and

collective bargaining rights.

And we're talking about American

citizens, people born in Texas.

People who theoretically

should have access

to those stipulations.

Besides their

working conditions,

Tejano migrants found a less

than welcoming experience

outside of their camps as well.

The most public example of

racially-based discrimination

occurred, believe it

or not, in Door County.

Where orchardists

had turned Tejanos

and African Americans

from the US south,

to compensate for a

growing crop yield.

By the early 1950s,

Door county's one

million cherry trees

produced between 20

and 50 million pounds

of cherries per season.

Imagine that.

20 to 50 million pounds

of cherries per season,

placing the area third in the

national cherry production.

More than 10,000

seasonal workers came

to Door County

every single season

to help harvest those crops.

Migrant laborers

and their families,

brought to this

idyllic region to pick

the bumper cherry

crop, soon came to pose

what the Milwaukee

Journal referred to as

the "Cherryland Problem".

Crammed into segregated,

unsanitary shanties,

and living without

proper medical attention,

migrant workers struggled

with unfulfilled

wage promises, often being

paid at less than half the rate

at which they had

been contracted.

Camp owners offered the

well-worn canard that

segregation in their

camps was only due

to racial difference.

And workers just

preferred to live among

people of their own kind.


migrant workers from the

US south faced perhaps,

the most visceral form

of discrimination.

In 1948, a local gang

of Door County residents

loaded up one crew of

black workers into trucks,

and drove them to

the county line

where they were told to,

"Hit the road, and not return."

Tejano youngsters

also faced the ire of

local white skilled children,

who reportedly called

those migrants, bean pickers.

And surrounding

towns in the county,

community businesses instituted de facto segregation policies.

So, in eating establishments

in Door County in 1949,

you could find signs that said,

"Whites only,"

and, "We cater only

to whites," in the windows.

Resort owners were

also bitter at the

presence of these

migrants, claiming that


and Tejano workers

drove away their customers,

even though few if

any of these people

ever went into resort

areas in Door County.

To better address grievances

from the migrant community

and create programming

that might prevent

future tensions from

expanding between

Tejanos and Wisconsinites,

the state's Governors

turned to state commissions,

with representation

from bureaucrats, clergy,

civic groups, and employers.

Principal among

these groups was the

Wisconsin Governor's

Commission on Human Rights.

This organization

however, lacked any sort

of legal power to

enforce civil rights law.

So, they had the title, but

no enforcement strategies.

So, their number one

way of getting people

to change their attitudes

and change their actions

was through education.

The Governor's

Commission's first major

migrant initiative began

in the fall of 1949,

when they surveyed the state's

migratory worker history,

and state services.

And they published

their findings in 1950,

in a report titled,

"Migratory Agricultural Workers

"in Wisconsin: A Problem

in Human Rights."

The commissioners described

sub-human living conditions,

and employers who forced

migrants into these conditions

upon their arrival in Wisconsin.

Along with unequal bargaining

power for laborers,

the absence of

educational opportunities

for migrant children,

and lacking public

health facilities.

This is one-- The reporters

and authors published this.

"The successful assimilation

of the migrant worker

"and his family into the

community to which he has come

"presents virtually the

same problems as the

"acceptance into the community

of other migrant groups."

Minority groups, pardon me.

"Having migrated in order to

better his economic status,

"he is often disillusioned

to find that he has

"no friends, no familiarity

with the culture

"outside of his own group."

And their conclusion

to the report,

the Governor's Commission

expressed hope that

their work would

help migrant workers

be no longer considered,

"The displaced

persons of America".

The unsettling living

and working conditions

described in the Governor's

Commission's report,

led to the creation of permanent

governmental committees

and the passage of

new laws designed to

protect migrant

families in Wisconsin.

At the request of the

commission, Wisconsin Governor's

appointed several state

committees throughout the 1950s,

to act as clearinghouses

for migratory workers,

and to aid in accorded planning

between state departments.

Like the Governor's Commission

on Human Rights however,

none of these groups had any

sort of enforcement power.

So the inner agency

migrant committee

had no ability to

actually regulate

migrant living conditions,

migrant working conditions,

or how people were

accepted into communities.

With state agencies

relying upon this

ineffective regulatory apparatus

to better worker's lives,

religious organizations

also stepped in to

see what they could do

to help migrant workers.

Catholics and a wide variety

of Protestant denominations

entered the field

to administer to the

spiritual, and at

time physical needs,

of arriving migrants

throughout the 1950s.

So, the Division

of Home Missions

of the Non-denominational

National Council of Churches,

initiated migrant programs

throughout the 1950s,

as did Catholic churches

throughout central Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, most of these

efforts by these churches,

and by the state commissions,

as I mentioned earlier,

had no actual regulatory power.

They had no executive power to

actually enforce these actions.

So it usually relied

upon education,

and as you can see here,

relying on people's morality.

Asking them to act in

a form that represented

their Christian morality,

or their standing

within the state.

It wouldn't be until 1960,

when Wisconsin Governor

Gaylord Nelson created

the Governor's Committee

on Migratory Labor, that

we saw some actual change

and actual lobbying at

the state-Senate level.

This Commission, the

Wisconsin Governor's

Committee on Migratory

Labor was chaired

by Elizabeth

Brandeis Raushenbush,

a University of Wisconsin

economics professor,

and a veteran on

migrant advocacy.

In this group, included


from various state agencies

and religious organizations.

With a more activist membership,

the Governor's committee

presented a new opportunity

to develop a clear lobbying

arm for migrant workers.

And their first fight was

in promoting public schools,

or public funding

for migrant schools

for migrant children

throughout the summers

of the early 1960s.

So you see here from

1961 in Manitowoc,

these committees

were actually able

to harness some of the money,

some of their resources,

despite the efforts

of growers to not push

any money into these programs.

Much of these earlier

initiatives however,

were patchwork.

And they served mostly

as just band aids

to a larger systemic

issues that allowed

Tejano migrants to

continue in a form

of second class citizenship.

It would ultimately be

farm workers themselves

that would accelerate

calls for action.

Chief among these

mobilizations were the

actions of thousands of

California migrant farm workers

that joined the National

Farm Workers Association,

what we now know as

United Farm Workers.

In the early 1960s,

that was the farm union

that was led by Cesar

Chavez and Dolores Huerta,

and numerous other

migrant leaders.

These workers called

first for a state-wide

and then a national

conversation on migrant

farm workers' rights,

to organize into unions,

and to collectively bargain

with their employers

over their working condition.

That movement that

began in California

eventually spread to

Wisconsin as well.

Among those migrants

here in Wisconsin

who decided to fight

for a better chance

for migrants across the

state, was Jesus Salas,

a third generation

Texas-born Mexican-American

farm worker from

central Wisconsin.

Salas' parents had been

migrant farm workers

who traveled to the

state, since the 1940s,

but had settled permanently

in Wautoma in 1958.

Salas had previously

served during the

summers in daycare

programming before 1965,

joining Wisconsin professor,

Elizabeth Brandeis Rausenbush,

to investigate migrant

work in the Wautoma area.

And it was working

with these committees

that he realized the individual

situation of migrants

had larger implications

at the state level.

And so in the summer of 1966,

Salas joined with a

group of migrant workers,

community organizers,

and university students

to begin a union

organizing drive

in central Wisconsin's

cucumber industry.

This push represented the

first sustained effort

to form a migrant farm

worker labor union

in the Great Lakes region.

The migrant workers

chose Obreros Unidos,

or Workers United, as the name

of their new organization.

And their slogan was

"La Raza Se Junta"

or the people rise to the cause.

They faced of course, numerous

obstacles and rallying support.

The biggest one among them

being the fact that migrant

worked as transients,

so it's hard to get

people in one location

to talk to them about

migrant organizing.

And so Salas, what he would do,

is he would organize both in

Wisconsin when migrant workers

were actually

working in Wisconsin,

but he would travel

down to Texas,

and organize with them

in their home communities

before they came northward.

As Obreros grew their

worker base in Wautoma

and in Texas, union

leadership made the decision

to organize a dramatic

march in the summer of 1966

to publicize the demands

of migrant workers.

Migrant workers had

four key demands.

A higher minimum wage,

coverage under the

state's workman compensation

health insurance laws,

migrant labor

representation on the

Wisconsin Governor's

Committee on Migratory Labor.

And public sanitation facilities

for migrant workers in Wautoma.

Those seem like pretty

simple requests,

but they were radical in 1966.

Over five days, 24

marches representing over

5,000 migrant laborers

employed in Waushara,

Portage, and Marquette counties,

walked the 80 miles

separating their camps

from the state's capital.

The workers referred

to their protest

as a "march for respectability

for Tejano migrants".

I just wanna show you

some quick images here.

The 1966 march

effectively publicized

the issues that migrants had,

and it began a

multi-year process of

organizing actual workers

throughout the state.

Throughout places like

Almond and Wautoma.

And the marches

that began in 1966

were very much imbued

with rising social justice

and civil rights

movements of the 1960s,

including Chicano power,

and these organizations

were often times in

conversation with organizations

in California, like the

United Farm Workers.

So some more images.

And one of the things

that I'd like to emphasize

is that these migrant

organizing events,

these union organizing

drives were not

simply led by the people

who worked in the fields.

They were completely

family events.

As I mentioned earlier,

because migrant units

were often consisted

of an entire family.

It was not just the

mother or father

working in the field, but it

was often the grandmother,

and the children

who are also part

of these organizing drives.

We're now a decade removed

from Obreros Unidos

march from Wautoma to Madison.

But Mexican-descent

workers continued

to play a vital role

in our state's economy.

Wisconsin has shifted

from being a major

vegetable grower, and processor

to the nation's number

two dairy state.

These dairy businesses

operate 24/7, year 'round.

And they require a constant

and reliable labor force.

Just as in the middle decades

of the 20th Century however,

our state's rural population

continues to shrink,

and cannot staff the needs

of the dairy industry.

Because of that,

80% of hired help on

large Wisconsin dairy

farms are actually made up

of immigrant labor, the majority of whom come from Mexico.

A large percentage of those

workers are undocumented,

here in the country

without legal standing.

Despite their

economic importance,

their centrality to

the state's wellbeing,

these Mexican dairy

workers have currently

come under the cross hairs

of state legislators,

intent on cracking down on

undocumented immigration.

Republican State Senators

and assembly people

have proposed two

pieces of legislation.

I'm sure you've

seen this is news.

Senate Bill 275,

and Assembly Bill 190,

which targets so called

sanctuary cities.

Cracking down on local laws,

aimed at protecting

undocumented immigrants.

The legislation focuses

on municipalities

that refuse to assist Federal

immigration enforcement,

with violations resulting

in a fine of $5,000 a day,

from state funding.

These proposed laws

have drawn protests

from immigration activists,

like Voces de la Frontera,

and Immigrant Allies.

But they have also

drawn protests

from the employers themselves.

And so on October

12th, just last week,

hundreds of opponents

of this legislation

descended on the State Capitol

right down the street here,

to voice their disapproval.

Among the people

who came to speak

was Buffalo County Dairy

Farmer John Rosenow,

who said in testimony

that the legislation

would make it even

more difficult for him

to fulfill the work

that he needed done.

He said, "We dairy

farmers need immigrants

"to work on farms

to help the industry

"to continue to be robust."

Rosenow is of course

is as correct today,

as if he would have

said it in 1947.

Without Mexican laborers,

documented or undocumented,

Wisconsin's dairy

industry as well as

meat packing, and

food processing plants

in rural parts of the

state, would collapse.

And so once again,

even though we are

more than 50 years removed

from that initial fight,

workers of Mexican descent,

brought to the state,

are seen as an

economic necessity,

but they find themselves--

find it impossible to exist

and prosper in Wisconsin.

Unlike those former Tejano

migrants who traveled

to Wisconsin every year

growing and harvesting

in the summer seasons,

many of the people

who are being targeted today,

have lived in the

state for decades.

They've bought homes, their

children attend schools,

and they have become vital

members of their communities.

And so bills like

SB275 and AB190

have had the effect of

placing undocumented workers

in the state, in a

state of social limbo.

As workers are terrified,

and families live

in constant fear.

I would imagine if the

Governor's Commission

on Human Rights were

still in existence today,

it's possible to believe

them issuing another report.

Calling on Wisconsinites

to recognize

a new problem in human rights.

A crisis in our

state's ability to

welcome those very

people that we rely upon

to keep our economy and

our society fighting.

Thank you.

(audience applauding)

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