State News

Committee hearing on immigration bill draws hundreds in opposition

Hundred of people in opposition to a bill that would prohibit so-called sanctuary cities attend a state Senate Committee on Regulatory and Labor Reform public hearing.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehigner

A state Senate committee held a public hearing Thursday on a bill that would ensure so-called sanctuary cities follow federal immigration enforcement laws, specifically when it comes to questioning the immigration status of an individual arrested for committing a crime.

The state Senate Committee on Regulatory and Labor Reform meeting to discuss Senate Bill 275 generated a crowd of over a hundred people.

The bill prohibits federal and state authorities from allowing certain cities and towns to enact policies that would protect undocumented immigrants from potential deportation. Some cities and counties, sometimes referred to as sanctuary cities, limit local authorities’ ability to question an individual’s immigration status.

This bill would end that practice, and if an undocumented immigration were to commit a crime, a city or town that went against federal laws by not enforcing immigration standards would have to pay the damages of the crime.

Cities and towns would also have to comply with a requirement for police to hold individuals in jail who violated a law and are suspected of being in the country illegally for an additional 48 hours past their release date.

The legislation has raised alarm throughout the state, especially for those who employ undocumented immigrants and those who risk deportation.

The committee’s crowd provided testimonies from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. — with only one person’s testimony being in favor of the bill.

Many opponents of the bill claim that, if passed, it would make undocumented immigrants feel less safe because they would be afraid to call the police to report crimes. Many also argued that it would pose several economic issues for the state of Wisconsin, as the immigrant community makes up a large basis of workers in the dairy, tourist and factory industries.

Pro-immigration group Voces de la Frontera held a massive protest last year against a similar bill. The group has said they will have an even bigger protest if legislation advances any further.

“Our community is ready to challenge this bill for as many days as necessary so that people understand and feel what it means when there are no people to go to work the next day,” said Mario Garcia Sierra, a member of Voces de la Frontera Madison.

Sierra added he’s concerned that his interaction with law enforcement would turn into inquiries of his immigration status under the bill.

“Even though I am a citizen, at any point I can be questioned about my citizenship status under this bill,” Sierra said.

Proponents of the bill, however, say it’s necessary for state and local governments to follow federal immigration enforcement laws and the legislation keeps communities safe, emphasizing the bill is aimed to only affect immigrants who have committed a crime.

"Contrary to claims of opponents, sanctuary cities do not make our communities safer,” said sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

“These politically correct policies actually increase the risk to public safety in order to make a political statement regarding federal immigration laws,” he added.

The bill falls in line with a national effort under the Trump administration to crack down on immigration. 

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