State News

Walker urged to oppose controversial immigration bill as he embarks on re-election bid

Activist groups demand Walker oppose anti-sanctuary city bill.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

As Gov. Scott Walker launched his 2018 re-election campaign at an event in Waukesha, immigrant rights advocates protested just outside, demanding the governor publicly oppose a controversial immigration bill.

Senate Bill 275, which was voted through committee last Thursday, would bar municipalities from prohibiting law enforcement from inquiring about individuals’ immigration status, or refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

It would also empower certain officials to proceed with enforcement action against undocumented individuals.

A similar proposal failed in the legislature last year, following a daylong general strike by immigrant-workers and protests by advocate groups and allies.

Voces de la Frontera, one of such groups, has announced preparations to do so again, according to Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz.

“We’re demanding that [Walker] publicly speak out and veto this bill,” said Neumann-Ortiz, who has announced her organization’s intent to build support for another, more-sustained general strike. “We want him to say that he will stand by the contributions that immigrant families make to our economy.”

Proponents of the bill, like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, feel that the proposed reforms are necessary for public safety, citing fears about criminal activity in immigrant communities.

“Shielding criminal aliens needlessly endangers innocent lives. There are roughly 3 million criminal aliens living in the United States, and nearly 1 million of these aliens have final orders of removal,” Susan Tully, F.A.I.R’s field director, told the Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform. “These criminals should not be able to continue to live in communities and engage in further criminal activity.

However, opponents of the legislation fear that tying immigration enforcement to local authorities could damage trust and cooperation between law enforcement and undocumented communities.

“[This bill] turns our government and local institutions into an arm of immigration, making people afraid to report cases of domestic abuse, trafficking, or sexual abuse,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “They’re afraid to contact or work with law enforcement, making people more vulnerable.”

The proposal, introduced by state Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, is expected to be taken up on the floor of the Senate in the coming months.

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