Wednesday, April 16, 2008


As Wisconsin approaches a third annual "Day without a Latino" march May 1, those on both sides of the immigration debate say nothing of substance is being done to address the issue.

Organizers announced plans for next month's march today, saying the purpose was to send a message to elected officials and presidential candidates that things need to change.

"This year we are sending very clear message and that message is to whichever next president is elected in 2008 that we want to see comprehensive immigration reform in the first 100 days in office," Christina Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, said today at City Hall press conference to announce the May 1 march.

"And to the current administration a very strong message that we want to see a immediate stop to arrests, deportations, on raids and immediate stop to the criminalization of low wage working families and employers in this country."

During the past two marches, locally owned Hispanic businesses have closed for at least part of the day or operated with minimal staff. This year, Voces is asking business to stay open and help by mobilizing for the march or offering economic support. Neumann-Ortiz said Voces is asking employers allow their workers to attend the march without retaliation.

"The reason we are doing this march because we are, I think, at a very exciting moment in the struggle in this country," Neumann-Ortiz said.

She said that last year's march was significant in stopping legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, that he dubbed the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. Sensenbrenner's bill called for a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, requiring employers to verify employees' citizenship status and making it a crime to assist undocumented immigrants.

State Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said that he does not think that anything is being done either on a local or national level.

"It seems to me that the Bush administration has, for whatever reason, encouraged illegal immigration with their inactivity for the last seven years," Grothman said.

There have been a series of fights at the state level over immigration over the last several years without many changes. Lawmakers fought attempts by Gov. Jim Doyle to allow children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Wisconsin high schools to attend the UW System at in-state tuition rates; they now pay the more expensive out-of-state rates.

Other proposals lawmakers have grappled with include legislation to prohibit local ordinances that restrict public employees from inquiring about the immigration status of those seeking public services. The bill, sponsored by Grothman, did not become law. At the national level, the Real ID Act and the Social Security "no-match" letters are two bills recently that have dealt with the issue of undocumented immigration.

Sensenbrenner also sponsored the Real ID Act, which placed new restrictions on state driver licenses and identification cards. The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year announced a delay in the implementation of the law.

Both Grothman and Neumann-Ortiz said that Sensenbrenner is a leading figure in the anti-immigration movement. Sensenbrenner declined to be interviewed for this article.

The Social Security "no-match" letters program, which was halted by a federal judge last year, would send employers a notice that a worker's identification number did not match government records. The employee then has 90 days to rectify the situation or the employer would have to terminate the worker. Those employed have to be a U.S. citizen or here legally.

Illegal immigration was a topic at the recent Future Wisconsin Conservative Leadership Coalition conference in Wauwatosa.

Attorney Chris Carson, co-founder of the Wisconsin Conservative Digest, was invited by the journal’s publisher Robert Dohnal to take part in a panel discussion on immigration. Carson is not an immigration lawyer, but he has represented undocumented workers in the past as part of his practice.

In an interview, Carson said he thinks that people are not informed about the drain that undocumented immigrants have on public services and non-payment of taxes.

“They need to be aware of how much it costs the legal residents of Wisconsin,” Carson said. “Nobody really thinks of it in terms of economic reality. They think of it in terms of, very often particularly the liberal end of the perspective, tend to think in terms of emotional arguments, the right of people to live self-fulfilled."

No comments: