Immigrants rights group Voces de la Frontera provided transportation for people from across the state to testify at the hearing.
The group’s leader, Christine Neumann Ortiz, worries it will open the floodgates for racial profiling and distrust of lawmakers in immigrant communities.
“When you characterize an entire group of people as criminal, that’s racist,” Neumann Ortiz says.
The bill would prohibit Wisconsin municipalities from enacting or enforcing policies that block federal or state laws relating to undocumented immigrants. It would also require local governments work with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Republican state Sen. Steve Nass is one of the bill’s sponsors. He says the bill only goes after immigrants who have committed a crime, and worries so-called sanctuary cities open the door to violence.
“Contrary to claims of opponents, sanctuary cities do not make our communities safer,” Nass says. “These politically correct policies actually increase the risk of public safety in order to make a political statement.”
But immigrants who testified today say regardless of whether or not the bill intends to, it invites officers to profile people who look Hispanic and incites fear among law abiding immigrants.
Tony Gonzalez runs an interpreting business in Wausau, and says he’s heard first hand from immigrants that they’re already often wary of law enforcement. He says the bill would exacerbate that mistrust.
“No matter what, this bill ends up tasting like an anti-immigrant bill,” Gonzalez says.
End Domestic Abuse’s Chase Tarrier says that mistrust of law enforcement can have tangible consequences throughout the entire community.
“We feel very very strongly that victims of domestic violence will be more vulnerable,” Tarrier says.
A similar bill last session brought tens of thousands of protesters to Madison last year. That bill ultimately failed to pass, largely due to opposition from the dairy farming community, many of whom rely on immigrant labor to run their farms.