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Immigration Advocates Speak Out Against Sanctuary Cities Bill

LaToya Dennis
Immigration Advocates head to Madison to protest Sanctuary Cities legislation

On Wednesday, immigrant advocates carpooled to the state Capitol to voice opposition to several bills, including one that would penalize so-called sanctuary cities.

WUWM'sLaToya Dennis met up with a group of about 20 immigrant advocates before they boarded a bus in Milwaukee to protest what they’re calling anti-immigrant legislation.

“We are all immigrants. We are not criminals like some people say," Guadalupe Gallardo says. She is originally from Mexico but has lived in the U.S. for more than 40 years. Gallardo says she got her citizenship in the late 1990s.

"We are really nice people, working people. Good fathers and mothers, and it’s not right that they want to change the law,” she says.

One of the bills up for a public hearing Wednesday would outlaw sanctuary communities. Wisconsin has three - Racine, Madison and Milwaukee County. Those communities have a policy of not asking people about their immigration status.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, president of Voces De La Frontera, says the bill would allow anyone to inquire about whether a person is in the country illegally. “If they talk about their immigration status or affirm their status if someone asks them about it, then law enforcement would have the obligation to turn them over to immigration,” she says.

Neumann-Ortiz says right now the Milwaukee Police Department has a policy of not inquiring about whether certain people are here legally. Those include people reporting a crime or helping with an investigation.

“For people who are undocumented, it actually means people will be afraid to contact law enforcement and that often extends to their families,” Neumann-Ortiz says.

Neumann-Ortiz worries that a change would also hurt relationships some communities have formed with law enforcement.

Most people would have nothing to fear, according to Republican Representative John Spiros. He’s behind the sanctuary cities bill. Spiros says it is not designed to go after innocent people; the only people who could be questioned about their status are those suspected of a crime.

“This is not a bill that’s going to affect someone who calls in, someone who’s walking down the street, someone who’s up in the farm, someone who’s doing something else. That’s not the intent of this bill,” he says.

Spiros says his plan would not require anyone to ask about a person’s legal status, it would simply allow them to ask. “It just prohibits a municipality from banning their employees from making those inquiries or cooperating with federal immigration agencies.” he says.

When talking about the bill, Spiros points to a fatal shooting in San Francisco last year. It is a sanctuary city and the shooter was in the U.S. illegally.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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