A Republican state representative is planning to introduce an immigration bill similar to the controversial Arizona law during the next legislative session.
The bill requires state officials to ask people who are suspected of a crime to prove U.S. citizenship if there is reasonable suspicion they are not citizens, the bill’s author, Rep. Donald Pridemore, R-Hartford, said.
Under the bill, offenders would have 48 hours to prove citizenship before they are turned over to immigration officials, Pridemore said.
Some Wisconsin cities such as Madison have previously been sanctuaries for people applying for welfare and other state benefits, but this bill would require them to prove citizenship first, Pridemore said.
Pridemore said the bill is important as Wisconsin is not enforcing its immigration laws strongly enough, which could lead to a larger illegal immigration problem.
“People are leaving Arizona as a result of their new immigration law, and I don’t want Wisconsin to be a magnet for these people because of the extensive state benefits we have,” Pridemore said.
Although the Wisconsin bill that will be introduced in January is less restrictive than the immigration law passed in Arizona, immigration groups such as the Milwaukee immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera would most likely challenge it, according to Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera.
The bill would undermine the economic input of immigrants in Wisconsin, said Neumann-Ortiz.
“In essence, [this bill] is reestablishing second class citizenship for Latinos and others who could appear or sound foreign who would be held to a different standard than others,” Neumann-Ortiz said.
The bill could also cause other problems besides racial inequalities if the population density decreases in Wisconsin similarly to in Arizona, according to Neumann-Ortiz.
People are going to leave a place where they do not feel welcome, and as they are also consumers it will have a negative impact on a community and create greater abuse in the workforce, Neumann-Ortiz said.
A more prevalent underground economy could also be a result, which would lead to less tax money to run schools and other state funded programs, Neumann-Ortiz said.
Although the bill targets illegal immigration, Wisconsin may not have the same problem with the issue as other states.
Illegal immigration is not a big priority in the upcoming legislative session as immigration is not seen as a large problem in Wisconsin, Jay Heck, executive director for Common Cause in Wisconsin, said.
Many newly-elected representatives’ platforms were based on creating jobs for Wisconsinites rather than immigration, Heck said.
“If the Republicans don’t concentrate on what they promised, they will find voters will be very unhappy with them, just like the Democrats did in this election,” Heck said.
Wisconsin representatives should now be working on creating more jobs and not using immigrants in this bill as a scapegoat for an economy that is failing, Neumann-Ortiz said.
Ultimately, Pridemore said he wants Wisconsin to be seen as supporting Arizona even though his bill is not as restrictive or comprehensive.
However, Heck said emulating Arizona may not be what Wisconsin residents want.
“I don’t think Wisconsin citizens want to be another Arizona,” Heck said. “The Arizona law is very controversial and put many people against each other.”