A move is afoot by a Republican lawmaker to introduce a bill similar in scope to Arizona's tough immigration policy to Wisconsin, a bill that would have the backing of Gov.-elect Scott Walker, should it reach his desk.
Rep. Don Pridemore, R-Hartford, plans to introduce a bill at the start of the legislative session in January that would require people suspected of crimes in Wisconsin to prove they are legally in the country or be turned over to federal immigration authorities.
Those arrested or charged with a crime would have up to 48 hours to prove they are in the country legally by either showing a birth certificate, passport, or immigration papers.
Pridemore said Thursday he has had several meetings with groups in the Hispanic community, police departments in the Milwaukee area and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, all of whom he said supported his bill.
"We realize we are not Arizona, we are not on a border with people pouring into our state," Pridemore said. "We're just trying to give officers another tool to deal with people who are not here legally."
Stacy Harbaugh, a community advocate for the ACLU of Wisconsin's Madison office, said the organization has requested a draft copy of the bill from Pridemore's office.
She said the organization is hoping legislators will "really consider the civil rights implications and the legal fees attached" to the bill if it becomes law.
"This is not doing our economy any good to profile people of color," Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh cited the fact Arizona had spent more than http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-09-03-arizona-lawsuits_N.htm"> $440,000 through June defending its state against lawsuits related to its immigration law. Legal costs are expected to top $1 million, as Arizona battles seven federal suits.
The Arizona law, which makes it a crime not to carry immigration papers, is the toughest immigration policy in the country.
So far, one suit has been thrown out and another has been partially dismissed. A federal injunction has halted four parts of the Arizona bill. For that reason, Arizona is appealing.
In a statement to The Capital Times Thursday, Walker said he was "disappointed by the federal judge's ruling to block Arizona's right to enforce the rule of law without interference from the federal government."
"As governor, I will sign similar legislation to the Arizona law to ensure the taxpayers of Wisconsin are not paying for benefits like BadgerCare and in-state college tuition for people who are here illegally," Walker stated in the release.
Walker's friendly stance toward the bill coupled with the shift from Democratic to Republican control of the state's Senate and Assembly make it likely the bill will find some traction.
"At this point, there are few checks and balances with the new administration," Harbaugh said. "Pretty much anything could make it to the governor's desk."
Elise Schaffer, a spokesperson for the Dane County Sheriff's Office, said Thursday that individuals now booked into the jail must fill out forms that include a question about their citizenship status.
"We never really get into the process of making someone provide documentation because that is ICE's job ... that is their role," Schaffer said. "All we do is notify them. If they ask us to hold the person, we will do that."
Nonetheless, the county takes a lot of heat for its http://10.8.3.18:8080/Save/classic/doc?docid=4522181&q=Pat%20Schneider%20AND%20date%2801/01/2009%20TO%2011/11/2010%29&stem=false&spaceop=AND&ttype=xsl&tval=headline_lee&pos=22&hn=23&pubAbbrev=lee&dtokey=pborkvis#anchor4522181"> policy.
Last year, the Dane County Jail released 149 inmates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the federal Department of Homeland Security, better known as ICE.
The county's policy, enforced and supported by Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, stands in stark contrast to the city of Madison's policy on reporting undocumented inmates.
Pridemore's bill, if made law, would override a Madison ordinance that prevents officials from asking about the immigration status of those who come in contact with police officers.
Last spring, members of the Madison City Council went on record in opposition to the county jail policy, recommending that only inmates charged with felonies be flagged for ICE.
The Dane County Immigration Task Force in May also recommended an end to routine reporting to ICE at the time of booking.