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‘Sanctuary city’ bill faces uphill battle in politically timid Senate

By   /   March 6, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

MADISON, Wis. – State Senate passage of a contentious “sanctuary city” bill remains in doubt, although Republican senators are expected to discuss the bill’s future on Tuesday.

The legislation, which passed in the Assembly last month on a party-line vote, 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.

There has been a great deal of misinformation about the scope of the bill from groups like the left-wing Voces de la Frontera, which has stirred up fear among the illegal immigrant community. The Milwaukee organization led a rally at the Capitol last month that drew some 20,000 demonstrators in and around the Capitol.

RELATED: Fear and faulty facts on a ‘Day Without Latinos’ 

A legislative insider told Wisconsin Watchdog the liberal spin campaign “really hurt the bill’s chances” in the Senate.

AP file photo

SANCTUARY SENATE: A reported 20,000 people turned out for a ‘Day Without Latinos,’ a demonstration against a ‘sanctuary city’ prohibition bill that passed in the Assembly. The bill, hit hard by by a PR campaign on the left, appears to have faint hope of passing in the Senate this election year.

Asked if the sanctuary city bill has a chance to make it to the Senate floor, Myranda Tanck, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, said, “It certainly still is possible.”

“It’s another item we will be discussing with the (Republican) caucus” on Tuesday, Tanck said. The Senate has one day of floor debate left, on Tuesday, March 15, and it promises to be a packed agenda.

Fitzgerald’s office has said the bill is not a high priority for the Senate.

Tanck said it’s up to individual members to get “sufficient support” for their bills.

Sanctuary city bill backers in the Senate, including Sens. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater and Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, will have their work cut out for them. The public relations campaign against the bill and Gov. Scott Walker’s lack of interest in it, will make selling the legislation a challenge – especially in an election year.

At this point, the bill is “still under consideration” in the Senate, Tanck said.

Following the Capitol rally, Stroebel, issued a statement blasting Voces de la Frontera’s call to “unite across Wisconsin to defeat racist, anti-immigration legislation” as the kind of emotional rhetoric that doesn’t leave room for fact.

“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, and for  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.

Ethan Hollenberger, the senator’s spokesman, said the proposal is an important public safety bill “guaranteeing local government’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.”

“This bill  applies only to those charged with a crime; minor infractions punished with citations are exempt. All accused of a crime and detained in jail should be investigated to the fullest extent of all laws,” the aide said, disputing the narrative of groups such as Voces de la Frontera.

“Sen. Stroebel will work with members of his caucus to gauge support for this key legislation. Unfortunately, false liberal rhetoric has likely scared other Republicans from supporting the bill,” Hollenberger said.

Walker late last month said he didn’t believe the Senate would pass the measure and he’s “just fine with that.”

The Assembly version of the bill, introduced by state Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield,  is part of a wave of legislation that followed the death of Kathryn Steinle. The young woman 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.

Madison would appear to be a “sanctuary city,’ although Mayor Paul Soglin argues it isn’t. The city council in 2010 passed a resolution instructing law enforcement not to tell U.S. immigration officials about an illegal immigrant’s citizenship status unless he is charged with a violent crime.

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M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at mkittle@watchdog.org.