Crowd opposes GOP bill that cracks down on ‘sanctuary cities’
Measure is before Senate committee on labor, reform
MADISON - Hundreds of people turned out Thursday to try to stop a bill that would cut state funding for so-called sanctuary cities and signaled they would turn to the courts if the measure is signed into law.
In the face of that opposition, Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) made a spirited case for the bill before the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform.
“The bill is directed specifically at illegal aliens that have committed a crime,” Nass told the committee.
“Contrary to claims of opponents, sanctuary cities do not make our communities safer. These politically correct policies actually increase the risk to
public safety in order to make a political statement regarding federal immigration laws.”
Opponents of the bill argue it is unconstitutional and would make Wisconsin less safe.
The bill “will lead to a dramatic decrease in the willingness of crime victims to reach out to law enforcement, meaning violent offenders will continue their abusive behavior unimpeded,” Chase Tarrier, public policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, wrote in a memo to the committee.
Senate Bill 275 would require police to hold people charged with a crime in jail for up to an additional 48 hours if they are suspected of being in the country illegally. It would also bar local governments from having policies blocking the enforcement of laws regarding determining someone’s immigration status.
Local governments that didn’t go along could see their state aid cut by up to $5,000 per day.
The legislation comes a year and a half after GOP lawmakers stepped away from similar legislation amid a massive protest in the state Capitol — but also as President Donald Trump seeks to scale back legal and illegal immigration.
A federal judge temporarily blocked a similar Texas law in August.
Darryl Morin of the League of United Latin American Citizens — one of the groups that sued over the Texas law — made clear Thursday a lawsuit was all but certain if Wisconsin adopts its bill. He said he believes the legislation violates at least five amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including those guaranteeing freedom of association and protecting people from unreasonable search and seizure.
“I know there are more that I can’t remember,” he added.
Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) said the state shouldn’t adopt the bill in any case, but should at least wait to see how the Texas law fares on appeal.
“We wasted enough money on lawyers in this state. Let Texas pay for it and then we’ll learn from them,” Wirch said.
Nass countered the state should move forward, noting Wisconsin laws limiting the powers of unions survived numerous lawsuits.
“We’ll see if this gets litigated. That does not scare me at all,” Nass said.
Opponents of the bill filled the hearing room and halls outside it, as well as three overflow rooms around the Capitol where they could watch video feeds.
The bill’s future is unclear. GOP Gov.Scott Walker and legislative leaders have not said if they support the measure.
“The governor will review the bill if it gets to his desk,” Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said by email.
Backers say they want to make sure local governments comply when federal authorities ask them to hold suspected illegal immigrants an extra 48 hours. They say the policy would affect those suspected of crimes, but not those who are stopped for traffic violations or seek police help.
Opponents disagree. They say immigrants will be less likely to call police out of fear that they, their friends or family will fall under police scrutiny when they’re seeking assistance.
They also contend it would be unconstitutional for local authorities to hold suspects longer than they ordinarily would, as the legislation would require.
Immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera arranged buses that brought hundreds of people from around the state to the hearing.
Voces was instrumental in the 2016 protest that halted last year’s legislation.This time, the group may call for strikes at dairy farms and other businesses to fight the legislation, according to the group’s executive director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz.
Immigrant labor makes up as much as 80% of the hired help on dairy farms.
Last year, a similar bill passed the Assembly by a 62-35 vote but never got to the floor of the Senate. Then, as now, Republicans controlled both houses of the Legislature.
The “Day Without Latinos” protest brought a crowd of roughly 20,000 to Madison to protest that bill and another one limiting the ability of local governments to issue photo IDs.
Under this year’s legislation, the state attorney general, district attorneys and sheriffs could sue local governments if they don’t comply with immigration laws.
PATRICK MARLEY / MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL
A massive crowd turned up Thursday in opposition to a bill that would cut state funding for so-called sanctuary cities.
An overflow crowd waits to get into the hearing on a bill to cut funding for so-called sanctuary cities at the state Capitol.