Few people are as well-known in Racine's Latino community as Ricardo Fierro.
A longtime volunteer and immigrant-rights activist, Fierro has led the Racine branch of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and served as the local president of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.
He has chaired the local interfaith coalition's immigration task force. And he's served on numerous advisory boards — for two Racine mayors, the county executive, the local school district and more.
He is also undocumented.
Fierro, 39, was taken into custody by ICE agents outside his Racine home last week, a move that shocked his family and friends. His detention has sparked outrage in the city where he has lived for more than two decades. And supporters across the state are calling for his release.
"This is so sad. Nobody is more dedicated to the Racine community than Ricardo," said Linda Boyle, co-president of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, which will hold a prayer vigil at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Monument Square.
About 100 protesters turned out for a news conference updating his status on Tuesday. And dozens of supporters — friends, lawmakers, public officials — have written letters vouching for Fierro's character and commitment to his community.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason called Fierro a “model resident of the City of Racine," according to news accounts. County Executive Jonathan Delagrave wrote that Fierro "has a spirit that makes the people around him better — lifting them up and making the Racine area a more welcoming place to live."
State Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine), who met Fierro through the interfaith conference and immigration task force, issued a public letter, saying it would be "a travesty to separate Ricardo from his family and the community he calls home."
"We are calling on ICE to return him to this community ... and his family," said Neubauer, one of a dozen Democratic lawmakers who have signed a letter seeking Fierro's release.
"This makes me ashamed to be a citizen of this country," she said. "This does not feel like the values we believe in."
Fierro, a native of Mexico and father of seven, was taken into custody on July 24 outside the home he shared with his fiancée.
He is being held in the Dodge County Detention Facility. His attorney, Kevin Layde of Milwaukee, said he has filed a request for a stay of deportation that will be considered by ICE officials in Chicago.
"He's a very resilient person, and he's confident ICE will make the right decision on this stay," Layde said.
Fierro came to the United States with his family when he was 16, according to Boyle. She said he returned to Mexico when he was 20 to obtain medicine for his brother that the family could not afford here but was detained on his return and deported. He returned illegally later, she said, though she was not sure when.
Over the last two years, as ICE has ratcheted up its enforcement actions, Fierro has been working to educate local undocumented immigrants to ensure they know their rights, according to Boyle. That has left some to wonder whether he was targeted as a result.
Immigrant-rights activists around the country have said they are being targeted because of their advocacy work.
"I don't know if that's what's happening here, but I have my concerns," Neubauer said.
Boyle and other supporters said they were surprised by Fierro's detention, saying he had no criminal record beyond a misdemeanor charge for a second offense of driving without a license — not unusual among undocumented persons, who are barred in Wisconsin from holding a driver's license.
But a clean record is, increasingly, no hindrance to deportation. ICE agents are increasingly targeting individuals without serious criminal backgrounds, a departure from previous years, according to a May report by USA Today.
"What I tell people is that the current administration has much broader enforcement priorities," Layde said.
Call Speaker Ryan to demand a stay of deportation for Ricardo Fierro: (202) 225-3031
Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/paul-ryan-free-ricardo-fierro-garcia
Source: Longtime Racine community activist Ricardo Fierro detained by ICE, faces deportation
Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel