MADISON, Wis. – Billed as “A Day Without Latinos,” Thursday’s demonstrations at the Capitol were marked by passionate speeches, plenty of hyperbole, and a lot of fractured facts to count.
The rally against legislation that Latinos believe to be anti-immigrant drew some 20,000 demonstrators in and around the Capitol grounds, according to Madison police. Many of the protesters were bused in by rally organizers, principally the left-wing Voces de la Frontera.
State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, called the demonstrations a “beautiful celebration of who we are as a state,” and that Wisconsin must “value and celebrate the diversity of the people around us.”
“After the slew of anti-immigrant legislation we have seen recently, we must stand together to ask the Governor to veto these divisive, hateful bills,” Sargent said in a statement.
But there was a lot of confusion and, Republican lawmakers assert, deliberate misinformation about what the bills would actually do.
Protesters took aim at Assembly Bill 450, the anti-sanctuary city legislation, insisting it would do everything from separating families to dividing Wisconsin.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, 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.
It does not “go after” illegal immigrants in general, only those who have or are suspected of committing crimes – beyond breaking U.S. immigration laws.
Communities that violate the law could see their shared revenue payments decline between $500 and $5,000 for each day of noncompliance.
State Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, said Voces de la Frontera’s call to “unite across Wisconsin to defeat racist, anti-immigration legislation” is the kind of emotional rhetoric that doesn’t leave room for fact.
He called the bills “common sense proposals” and asserted the Republican-led Legislature is trying to clean up the mess the federal government has made of U.S. immigration laws.
The “federal government has so woefully controlled this area of the law, states now must pass legislation affirming its role to issue ID cards and requiring local units of government to cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement,” Stroebel said in a statement.
“Frankly, the sort of rhetoric spewed by Voces would not find support among many of the hard working legal immigrants in Wisconsin providing a better life for their families,” the lawmaker added. “Entering the country illegally has never, and should not be, part of the American Dream. I call on the federal government to secure our borders and reform our immigration laws in a common sense manner for the betterment of our country.”
Stroebel urged his Senate colleagues to pass the legislation Thursday, and for Gov. Scott Walker to sign into law Senate Bill 533, a bill that prohibits local identification cards, such as those proposed in Milwaukee County, from being used for voting.
State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, co-author of the municipal ID bill, on Thursday said Voces de La Frontera “apparently can’t handle the truth.”
He said the Milwaukee-based advocacy group has spent the past several months “spreading misinformation to try to derail” the bill. The lawmaker sent out a press release on the “top five false claims” made by Voces de La Frontera about the legislation.
CLAIM: Senate Bill 533 prevents the city and county of Milwaukee from issuing local ID cards to their residents.
FACT: The legislation does not prohibit cities or villages from creating and distributing municipal IDs. All the bill does is lay out the ground rules for issuance and use. The cards have to clearly state they cannot be used for voting.
CLAIM: This bill is an escalated attack on local control.
FACT: Local control does not apply here because counties and towns are extensions of state government. Unlike cities and villages, counties and towns do not have home rule authority. Again, cities and villages can still issue local IDs.
CLAIM: Cardholders will be able to use the municipal IDs for such things as gaining employment, opening a bank account and acquiring a library card.
FACT: A local ID would satisfy only one documentation requirement for applying for a job. There is also no guarantee private institutions and libraries will accept municipal ID cards.
CLAIM: Local IDs are needed to purchase prescription medication.
FACT: Under Wisconsin law, presenting a photo ID is not required when picking up most prescriptions. IDs are only necessary for Schedule II and III drugs, and municipal IDs are not an acceptable form of identification in those instances.
CLAIM: Municipal ID cards will help residents obtain basic services and make their lives easier.
FACT: Because local IDs do not accomplish the things Voces de la Frontera say they will, the cards will cause confusion and give false hope to many individuals.