MADISON – Calling it a victory for truth, justice and voter integrity, Republican lawmakers hailed Assembly passage of two bills Tuesday tied to immigration issues.
In party-line votes, the Assembly passed a bill that would prohibit local identification cards, such as those proposed in Milwaukee County, from being used for voting. The Republican majority also approved legislation banning “sanctuary cities” in Wisconsin from receiving state funding.
State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, co-author of the municipal ID bill, said opponents attempted to derail the proposal by “purposefully spreading misinformation, but in the end, truth prevailed.”
“By passing Senate Bill 533 and providing guidance on the issuance of municipal IDs in state law for the first time, there will no longer be any confusion on these locally issued cards,” the lawmaker said in a statement following passage. “We are also protecting innocent people who were being used by some dishonest community organizers and government officials. Those same officials were making false claims about what the municipal IDs could accomplish.”
The legislation would prevent city-issued IDs from being used for voting or to serve as a substitute for any public benefit that requires a state-issued ID in the application process.
And community IDs could not be issued by towns or counties under the proposal.
The measure now heads to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.
The bill is in response to a coordinated push by the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to create a local identification cards – IDs that would be issued to illegal immigrants, the homeless and others.
“My constituents in West Allis don’t want to pay for the city of Milwaukee to issue a local ID card,” Sanfelippo told Wisconsin Watchdog earlier this month. “Why should every taxpayer pay for every program the city of Milwaukee wants to do? If the city thinks it’s important to issue this ID card, let them pick up the tab and do it on their own.”
Taxpayers would cover the cost of the ID program, at an initial cost of $300,000 — split evenly between the city of Milwaukee and the county.
Such an ID is needed, according to Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy Romo West, because “many Milwaukee County residents face barriers to obtaining state identification and could benefit from a community identification card.”
That list includes, among others, low-income elderly, individuals with mental illness, survivors of domestic violence and formerly incarcerated individuals re-entering the community, according to a county board resolution.
It also includes the homeless, illegal immigrants and transgendered individuals.
While municipal ID advocates deny the cards would be used for voting, Sanfelippo said that is the real reason why Milwaukee officials are pushing the program. The proof, he said, is their resistance to any disclaimers on the cards warning that they are not intended to be used for voter ID.
“It’s all about politics,” the lawmaker said. “It’s unfortunate because they are using these poor individuals as puppets.”
West told Wisconsin Watchdog in December that advocates hope to have the IDs in place by March, before April’s local elections.
“We are all up for reelection in April and we would like to have it in time to make sure it’s in place and implemented by then,” the supervisor said. “It has nothing to do with the election; it’s about the people who are committed to” the community ID program.
The “sanctuary city” bill, introduced by Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, last fall has been widely criticized by advocates for illegal immigrants and applauded by those who see local governments nationwide thumbing their noses at the rule of law in a cynical pursuit of votes.
The legislation, which now moves to the Senate, prohibits municipalities and counties from implementing policies that stop law enforcement officials from checking the immigration status of arrestees or in any way refusing to cooperate with federal immigration agents.
Communities that violate the law could see their shared revenue payments decline between $500 and $5,000 for each day of noncompliance.
Spiros could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Spiros’ bill is part of a wave of legislation nationally following the death of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot last July while strolling on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. The suspect, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, is an illegal immigrant from Mexico with a long criminal record who had been deported several times.
As the Los Angeles Times reported:
Sanchez was in federal prison for re-entering the country after his fifth deportation. But on March 26, as the date neared for him to be released into ICE custody, prison officials in Victorville shipped him north to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department on an outstanding drug-related warrant despite an immigration detainer. The San Francisco district attorney’s office declined to prosecute what authorities said was a decade-old marijuana possession case, and Sanchez was released April 15.
Immigration officials issued another detainer after Lopez-Sanchez arrived in San Francisco, requesting to be notified before his release so arrangements could be made to take custody, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.
“The detainer was not honored,” Kice said in a statement.
Illegal immigrants and their advocates, including legislative Democrats, insist the bill is all about politics.
State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, called the two measures “anti-immigrant” bills.
“Over the last several months, we’ve seen the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination whip up anti-immigrant sentiment for political gain. Now, that sentiment has touched down in Wisconsin,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “These pieces of legislation … are, at best, aimed at keeping immigrants to this country in the shadows. At worst, they seem to be part of a coordinated effort to drive them from this country.”
Zamarripa said sanctuary city-related laws have hurt public safety in areas where they’ve been tried because “undocumented residents are less likely to call the police for help if there’s a chance that their loved ones, friends or neighbors may be deported as a result.”
Republican leadership has gotten some pushback from conservative Latinos.
In an open letter to the Republican Assembly, Zeus Rodriguez of Hispanics for Leadership criticized the bill as “frivolous legislation” that has “damaged the fragile relationship between Assembly Republicans and Latinos here in Wisconsin.”
“As a conservative, this bill does not represent conservative values, nor is it good for the future of our state and definitely not good for the future of the Republican Party of Wisconsin,” Rodriguez wrote.
“I am asking that the you (Assembly Republican Leadership) reconsider this bill for the sake of immigrant families and their U.S.-citizen children. I am also asking the State Senate and Governor Walker to either ignore this bill entirely or to limit its potential impact to convicted felons and convicted felons only,” he added.
Some congressional Democrats agree that the system has failed, at least when it comes to felons falling through the cracks, although Senate Democrats blocked federal legislation last year that would have cut off law enforcement grants to sanctuary cities.
Congressional Republicans have pushed measures to restrict federal funds to cities such as San Francisco that fail to comply with federal immigration laws.
“The tragic murder of Kate Steinle once again underscores the need to end these reckless (sanctuary city) policies,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said at a hearing last year.