Hateful rhetoric toward immigrants drives away Wisconsinites

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Wisconsin dairy farm
Wisconsin dairy farm

PEPIN COUNTY, WISCONSIN- Hateful rhetoric coming from the White House is driving hard-working Wisconsinites away from the United States. Wisconsin’s dairy industry attracts many immigrant workers, and many of these workers are leaving for Mexico out of fear. Trump’s rise has fueled anti-immigrant sentiment, and for many, the U.S. has become a threatening place to live in. Too threatening, in many cases, to stay on Wisconsin’s dairy farms.

Many undocumented immigrants like Miguel Hernandez, who has worked on Wisconsin dairy farms for years, will be leaving the state. Without workers like Hernandez, Wisconsin’s dairy industry, which relies on labor from undocumented immigrants, could be in trouble.

Alexandra Hall at Wisconsin Public Radio reports:

On June 1, Hernandez and four other men, who for years have milked and cared for cows on dairy farms among the hills of western Wisconsin, drive away in the direction of their mountainous hometown of Texhuacan. A few days later, Tepole and the children fly out of Chicago.

The Hernandez family is leaving, in part, because of the threat of deportation — which could ban them from returning to the United States for 10 years — and what they describe as increasingly harsh rhetoric by President Donald Trump and others toward immigrants, especially those here illegally.

Like many immigrant dairy employees in Wisconsin, the workers in the caravan have stories about walking through the desert to cross the border illegally, coming to work for farmers in the U.S. eager for the help.

They ended up here in America’s Dairyland, the nation’s top cheese state and No. 2 milk producer, attracted by a dairy industry dependent on undocumented immigrant labor to keep cows milked three times a day, year-round. They have raised their children in communities where American workers stopped answering “help wanted” ads for cow milkers long ago.

And now, they are going home.

“Miguel has been our right hand,” Knoepke said. “He treated (the farm) like he owned it. We’re really saddened, scared. I don’t know. It’s sad.”

Read more at Wisconsin Public Radio.