Latino voters in Wisconsin turned out for the November 2nd election at the same historically high levels as 2006. They were motivated by opposition to anti-immigrant politics and the threat of Arizona type laws that legalize racial profiling against Latinos, including US citizens.
Despite an increase in Latino voter participation, the margin was not big enough to impact the state elections as was the case in other states. The Latino vote in these key states like Nevada, Colorado, California, New York, and Washington was pivotal in securing a majority in the US Senate for Democrats.
In Wisconsin, the dramatic shift of political power for one party, the Republicans, was less about immigration than anger about the need for jobs and the pace of reform.
Yet, the protest vote against the Democrats on a jobs agenda will not fare any better with a Republican majority. Indeed, Walker, the newly elected Republican governor, just announced he will return $810 million federal stimulus dollars for a light rail plant in Milwaukee, Talgo, which would have generated 15,000 new jobs across Wisconsin.
These policies and others to come, promise more tax breaks for the rich and large corporations, privatization of the public sector, and more free trade policies to gut the few manufacturing jobs that are left.
But of course, if the rich get richer, we need to escape goat someone else for the growing economic disparity—who better than immigrants?
State Representative Pridemore a Republican from Hartford, WI has just announced that he will introduce a bill, similar to Arizona, that would grant local and state law enforcement officers license to racially profile anyone they believe had “reasonable suspicion of being undocumented.”
As Pridemore himself put it,”The bill that I will be introducing will require law enforcement to act when they suspect a law has been broken and the perpetrator may be here illegally.”
Under the proposed bill, those arrested or charged with a crime or under suspicion of violating a law, would have to show they are legally in the state with a passport, birth certificate, immigration documents or other records.
They would be held in jail for up to 48 hours. If they could not prove legal presence in the state by then, they would be turned over to immigration authorities.
In essence, reestablishing second class citizenship for Latinos and others who could appear or sound foreign who would be held to a different standard than others.
The bill would allow citizens to sue municipalities and counties if they did not believe they were enforcing the immigration law. Those communities could pay fines of $500 a day for not complying with the law.
The bill also would prevent local governments from passing ordinances barring officials from inquiring about the immigration status.
The consequence of this proposed law would be: a futile and costly legal battle over the constitutionality and violation of civil rights. Indeed, Arizona has already spent a million dollars in a legal battle it is sure to lose. Can Wisconsin, which is already broke, afford this pointless and expensive gesture?
It would also destroy the local and state economy, by undermining the tax contributions of immigrants and lead, ironically, to more job losses as Wisconsin’s dairy industry would take a major blow, and as one dairy farmer put it, “if immigrants go, so does Wisconsin’s dairy industry and we’ll be importing our milk from China.” One in 10 jobs in Wisconsin depends on the dairy industry, so if the industry goes down the tubes, so do a lot of other folks in our state.
The Republican majority was elected to create jobs—not destroy them or blame hardworking families that contribute to our state and are also victims of a failing economy that has prioritized Wall Street over Main Street for too long.
It’s urgent that individuals join Voces to become involved in the campaign to defeat anti-immigrant legislation in 2011.
Tired of the wrong people being blamed for growing unemployment? Join us at a candlelight vigil to tell Scott Walker, “Keep Talgo light rail jobs in Wisconsin!” on Tuesday, November 23rd at 5:00PM, at Talgo on 27th St parking lots between Hopkins and Townsend. Come to Voces at 4:00PM for transportation or carpool.
The alternative to scapegoating of immigrants and growing poverty for Wisconsin’s working families will be won through our unity and relentless pressure for jobs and civil rights. Together, let’s tell them: Wisconsin is not Arizona. Forward, Wisconsin!
This post is also available in: Spanish