Wisconsinites experienced a workday without the Latino community's participation Thursday, as thousands of Latinos descended onto the state's capitol to protest two bills they deem "anti-immigrant."
More than 14,000 people rallied in Madison, Wisconsin, for "Día sin Latinos e inmigrantes," or "Day without Latinos and immigrants," creating a scene reminiscent of the state's 2011 collective bargaining protests, packing the Capitol building's rotunda and filling the square outside.
The two bills — one that would allow police officers to ask arrested or detained people their immigration status (currently at the state Senate), and one that would ban local governments from giving undocumented residents municipal IDs, (on Gov. Scott Walker's desk) — have sparked controversy among Wisconsin's Latino residents, who have long felt disenfranchised in the state.
More than 1,000 people testified against the two bills while they were in hearings, which Latino activists said did not influence legislators.
Hundreds of Wisconsin businesses closed in support of their immigrant workers Thursday, and the state's dairy farms went without a substantial portion of their workforce. Immigrants make up more than 40 percent of hired labor on Wisconsin's dairy farms, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Latinos are Wisconsin's largest minority group, representing approximately 6 percent of the state's population as of the 2014 census report. They are a growing and predominantly young population (the median age for a Latino resident in Wisconsin is 24) in a state whose population has been getting increasingly older.
Walker, who has seen his fair share of protests in the state capitol, said he didn't think Thursday's protests disrupted the economy.
"There are protests all the time at the state capitol, it doesn't affect the economy one way or another," Walker told reporters Thursday. "Today we are going to focus, as we do every day, on how do we help improve the business climate so we can put more people to work."