United Methodist leaders, pastors, and members from across the state participated in the “Dia Sin Latinos/A Day Without Latinos” rally at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison on Thursday, February 18, protesting several proposed bills that would affect immigrants living in Wisconsin. Madison: First UMC, located two blocks away from the Capitol building, offered food and bottled water donated by local businesses to the thousands of attendees, and also hosted a training for local volunteers to act as marshals during the event. “There are people in our society who work hard but are ‘invisible’ to us until their tasks go undone,” said Rev. Phil Blackwell, Lead Pastor at First UMC. “[The] gathering at the Capitol Square of Latino workers from around the state is meant to help them be both seen and heard. As a practical expression of our commitment to be ‘Downtown for Good,’ our church is providing hospitality and support services for those who will be engaging legislators in conversation."

Heidi Careaga, South East District Office Manager, moved to the United States from Guatemala when she was 11 years old, and said she felt it was important to attend the rally to support her Latino brothers and sisters. “It’s very personal. I have lived through it, and I know what these people are feeling,” she said. “We all belong to a different group, but on that day, I saw one whole group together with a purpose to make their voice heard. Everyone was at peace; there was no violence. They just wanted to be heard.” South East District Superintendent Deborah Thompson said she attended because she feels called to live out her faith by standing up for injustices around her. “I feel anytime we try to keep people, any people, from living freely and taking care of themselves and their families, it’s an injustice,” she said. “A lot of our neighbors don’t look like us, but they are our neighbors and our brothers and sisters. If there’s a threat to their freedom, it’s also a threat to my freedom. If my neighbor is hurting, I’m hurting.”

Click here to read an article from the Isthmus with more information about the rally, featuring a quote from First UMC member Karen Andro. Click here and here to see pictures from the day.