A bill to prevent future DNA backlogs in sexual assault cases appears to be dead due to partisan fights in the Wisconsin legislature. For years, law enforcement members and sexual assault advocates have fought to pass a bill to prevent these delays.
The bipartisan bill would have prevented future backlogs by creating the first statutory guidelines in Wisconsin on how to process them. These guidelines would establish an organized approach to ensuring that all victims of sexual assault get their evidence processed in a timely manner.
Partisan disagreements have halted the pursuit of the bill after Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul was elected last year. Some Republican lawmakers wanted an addition to the bill, which had already been passed by the Senate. A part of the addition was that police would be required to notify immigration if the accused assailant was undocumented.
“They [sexual assault survivors and advocacy groups] are concerned that requiring police to report accused assailants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could have a chilling effect on sexual assault victims who may be hesitant to call police,” the Wisconsin Public Radio website said.
This addition would have been cruel and would have instilled fear in sexual assault victims who were already traumatized by their experience. Although immigration would be called on the assailant, immigration services would most likely get involved if the victim was illegal too. It is highly unlikely that ICE would just let the victim return to their life in the United States after discovering that they came here illegally.
Any situation in which immigration services would be notified would cause anxieties of deportation and family separation. This applies whether the victim is illegal or if someone in their family is. Most immigrants live in mixed-status families, where some people are citizens and others are undocumented immigrants.
The addition of the bill to notify immigration services serves only one purpose — advancing the political agenda of these lawmakers. The focus of this bill should have been on getting justice for sexual assault victims and better securing public safety instead of targeting illegal immigrants.
The lawmakers suggesting this addition are spreading the message that getting rid of illegal immigrants is more important to them than helping victims of sexual assault. Fifty percent of Hispanic women have been sexually assaulted or harassed. If the Wisconsin legislature had passed this form of the bill, there would be an increase in sexual assaults committed against immigrants. The attacker would know that the person wouldn’t go to the police out of fear of deportation, therefore there would be no repercussions for the attacker. This bill would raise sexual assaults, especially against minorities.
Former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel’s initiative revealed that 496 of the kits tested produced at least one hit, which proves that this bill would not go to waste. Even one single hit makes all the difference for past and potential future victims.
Politicians should set aside their partisan beliefs and focus on helping to get justice for all victims of sexual assault in their jurisdiction.
Lauren Hando ([email protected]) is intending to major in journalism.