Legislator: Bill is state's answer to illegal immigration
Click here to read the transcript of our chat with reporter Anna Marie Lux about The Gazette's three-day series "Changing Face of America."
Changing Face of America
Hispanics are changing the face of local communities. Rock County's Hispanic population more than doubled from 2000 to 2010. Walworth County's Hispanic population jumped 72 percent. Who are some of the new neighbors and what issues do they face? The Gazette looks at those questions and other topics in a three-day series. View section
Sunday: Immigration stories offer insight into why Mexicans left their homes.
Today: For new immigrants, life is not always what they expect: American Dream or American nightmare?
Tuesday: A new generation of Americans talks about navigating the porous border between two cultures.
Hispanics are changing the face of local communities. Who are some of the new neighbors and what issues do they face?
State Rep. Donald Pridemore, R-Hartford, has introduced legislation that he calls Wisconsin's response to illegal immigration. He discussed the measure with The Gazette.
Q: Why did you propose Assembly Bill 173?
A: The drafting process began on AB173 back in July of 2010 when other states were also considering legislation dealing with their immigration issues.
I proposed AB173 to:
-- Put Wisconsin on record as one more state willing to enact its own legislation as long as the federal government continues to ignore its own immigration law or propose bipartisan legislation to reform our immigration policy.
-- Narrowly focus the legislation to deal with the criminal element and not put additional requirements on employers.
-- Draft language that specifically prohibits racial profiling.
-- Supersede local ordinances or resolutions that allow "sanctuary" status.
Q: Is it similar to Arizona's immigration bill?
A: Not even close. AB173 does:
-- Not allow local law enforcement to determine legal status.
-- Not allow racial profiling.
-- Not put additional requirements or penalties on employers.
-- Not require anyone here legally to carry cumbersome immigration documents.
-- Not duplicate federal law and penalties in state statutes.
Q: What does it require police to do?
A: Local police or arresting officers continue to do their routine job of arresting or ticketing statute or ordinance violators, which requires police to try and identify who the violators are.
It is only after a period of 48 hours in which a violator either refuses to or cannot provide any form of identification that the police are required to notify federal immigration authorities and transport the violator to a federal facility.
Q: The legislation has been criticized because it could promote racial profiling. How do you respond to the criticism?
A: The bill specifically prohibits racial profiling and furthermore does not allow reasonable suspicion that someone is here illegally to occur until after the 48-hour period. Only if you already do not trust police officers to fairly and equally enforce our laws without bias could you make this criticism.
Q: Does Wisconsin have a problem with illegal immigrants? If so, how? In what way?
A: The United States has an immigration problem, and as other states enact their own immigration laws because of the federal government's failure to act, I do not want illegal immigrants leaving those states to look favorably toward Wisconsin because we do not have laws detrimental to their criminal activities here.
Q: Are you attempting to make a statement to the federal government with the bill? If so, what are you trying to say?
A: Yes. The federal government must either enforce the immigration laws already on the books, reform immigration laws, increase immigration quotas or streamline the work permitting process.
Q: What is the status of the bill? Will there be action on it in 2012?
A: The bill has been assigned to the Homeland Security committee and is waiting for a public hearing. I am also considering amending the bill based on input from legislation being introduced in other states.
Q: What response have you gotten from the public about it? Who supports it? Who does not?
A: In general, most constituents support penalties for people who have broken our laws, including those who have immigrated to the United States and have come to Wisconsin legally through the naturalization process.
Those who do not support AB173 are those I would classify as liberal Hispanic groups that believe amnesty must be a major consideration for any immigration reform package and also those groups or individuals that provide illegal immigrant services or have a vested interest in perpetuating the present situation, whether it be economic or political.