West Allis naturalization ceremony highlights immigration history

MILWAUKEE - A naturalization ceremony in West Allis on Friday, Nov. 17 highlights the importance of immigrants in America.

More than 300 people took the oath of allegiance, becoming full-fledged American citizens, including Gloria Gonzalez.

"Now I'm really happy. It's a dream," she said.

"I wanted to be free. To get a good job. To finish my school," added Esther Walusay.

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The ceremony points to proof that the city's history of migration runs deep.  Marquette University research shows 55% of Milwaukee's population in 1850 were immigrants. That's in stark contrast to what we see now.

Census data shows that from 2017 to 2021, only about 10% of the city of Milwaukee included immigrants.

Latin Americans make up the largest group of immigrants in Milwaukee, but Marquette research shows it's still less than half of the national average.

"As a natural course of things, it ebbs and flows," said Paul Trebian from the International Institute of Wisconsin. "They learn how to be our citizens. They become part of our economy. They integrate their values with our values. It enhances our country."

Research shows Milwaukee's population has decreased more than 2% since 2020, and without immigrants the numbers would plummet even more.