WATCH: Group protests outside Paul Ryan's church calling for him to protect immigrant program

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Jonah Beleckis
Sunday, August 20, 2017

JANESVILLE—Members of an immigrant youth advocacy group and others protested peacefully outside Rep. Paul Ryan's Janesville church Sunday morning calling for Ryan to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigrant program.

The program allows some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors to earn a work permit and defer potential deportation.

“For many of us, that gave us hope,” said Cendi Trujillo. “That told us and personally me that working so hard is worth it. And going to college is going to be worth it because you're going to be able to put your degree to use.”

Trujillo of Milwaukee is a member of Voces de la Frontera and a group within Voces called Youth Empowered in the Struggle. Voces, a group that advocates for immigrant and worker rights, helped organize Sunday's protest at St. John Vianney Catholic Church.

This summer, a coalition of officials from 10 states threatened to sue to eliminate DACA if President Donald Trump does not end the program by Sept. 5, according to a Voces news release. The program allows close to 800,000 immigrant youth to work legally and remain with their families.

Trujillo said there are often protests outside Ryan's offices and “we are tired of going to an empty office.”

So she said they decided to protest at the church. Trujillo said the protest was not in any way an attack on the church. She said they met a few days ago with the priest, gave advance notice and shared their stories.

“More than half of us here are Catholic,” she said. “We wanted to share Mass and communion and prayer with Paul Ryan, but, unfortunately, he wasn't here.”

Janesville police monitored the protest of about 40 or 50 people. There were no arrests or injuries, according to a news release sent after the protest.

Several city trucks were parked on Racine Street as a protective barrier against vehicle-borne assaults.

Heather Heyer, who was among a crowd of people protesting against white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virgina, died after a car drove through the crowd last weekend. The suspected driver, James Alex Fields Jr., is charged with second-degree murder.

The protest was also to call on Ryan to more forcefully “reject Trump's white supremacist agenda,” the Voces news release reads.

Also in attendance at Sunday's protest was Cathy Myers, who is running in the Democratic Primary hoping to eventually unseat Ryan, a Republican, in the 1st District.

She said losing DACA would destroy families. She said the government with DACA made a promise to people, and taking that away would be “unconscionable.”

Voces is planning a Monday rally outside Paul Ryan's town hall meeting, which is organized by CNN, in Racine. The group is gathering from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Racine Theatre Guild.

“Some of us are teachers. Some of us are community organizers. Some of us are in college or some of us are part of the workforce,” Trujillo said. “Either way, we are an asset to this country, and we are here to stay.”

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