Wisconsin drafting Arizona-esque immigration bill

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When Arizona’s immigration bill passed in the spring, it set off a wave of controversy that has swept the country and led to a string of copycat proposals in several states — now including Wisconsin.

State Rep. Don Pridemore (R–Hartford) recently proposed an Arizona-like immigration bill in Wisconsin that will be introduced to the state legislature in January as a flood of newly elected Republicans take office.

Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, signed into action April 23, gave state law enforcement the authority to stop people suspected of being illegal immigrants. It also authorizes officers to detain individuals while verifying their immigration status.

Immigrants are required to carry documentation at all times. If proven to be illegal aliens, those individuals are arrested and transferred to customs.

Pridemore’s proposed legislation would require individuals suspected of crimes to prove their legal status, but only if police have “reasonable suspicion” they are illegal aliens.

With both requirements met, during a 48-hour stint in jail the individual must prove legal status through immigration documents, a passport or a birth certificate. Failure to provide valid identification would result in subjection to federal immigration authorities.

The bill would affect not only immigrants, but would also place higher demand on local governments.

According to a preliminary draft of the bill provided by Jim Bowers of Pridemore’s office, local governments would be required to facilitate the identification of illegal immigrants.

For example, a local government cannot keep a county official from questioning the immigration status of an individual seeking its public services. Local governments that fail to comply will face a daily fine of $500.

William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, said 81 percent of Americans support proposed immigration bills around the country, and especially the one in Wisconsin.

“These immigration bills, if put into law, would save American jobs, wages and taxpayer dollars,” Gheen said. “We’re fighting against illegal immigration, and fully support the bills that will help put America back on the right track economically.”

Governor-elect Scott Walker could not be reached, but supported an Arizona-like immigration bill throughout his campaign. In his campaign website column, he said although America is proud to be a nation of immigrants, a better job must be done to protect the country’s borders.

“As governor of Wisconsin, I will sign legislation that strengthens our protection against illegal immigration and ensures that taxpayer-funded benefits like Badger Care, in-state tuition and drivers’ licenses are not available to those who are here illegally,” the statement reads.

In opposition, members of Voces de la Frontera, an organization working to improve the quality of life for low-wage and immigrant workers, said the organization has not discussed a course of action for combating the bill yet. The group is holding an emergency membership meeting Saturday to discuss its options.

Chris Piszczek, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of Voces de la Frontera, said they have been prepared for this since the midterm election ended.

“Our main goal right now is to educate (Walker) on the advantages of turning down the proposed bill,” he said.

Piszczek said immigrants make up 40 percent of the Wisconsin dairy industry’s workforce, and many are undocumented. If the proposed bill passes, it would be detrimental to the industry, he said.

“For the most part, immigrants in the state have received decent support from the community — especially in Milwaukee,” he said. “At the same time though, we feel like we’re going in two different extremes … just when we make progress, something like this bill happens.”

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