A day after thousands gathered in and around the Capitol to protest two bills they called anti-immigrant, the office of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Friday that one of the bills, which would withhold state funding from so-called sanctuary cities, is not a priority for passage.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Friday that Madison is one of the “sanctuary cities” the measure is meant to restrict, but Madison police call that label inaccurate.
On Wednesday, a crowd estimated to be as large as 20,000 gathered at the Capitol for a rally dubbed “A Day Without Latinos and Immigrants in Wisconsin.” The rally was to protest AB 450 and Senate Bill 533, which bars towns and counties from issuing local ID cards to residents.
The sanctuary cities bill awaits consideration in the state Senate. Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said Friday that while the bill remains up for discussion, “no member has indicated it’s a top priority.”
A spokeswoman for Voces de la Frontera, the group that organized the rally, said the group was “definitely pleased” by those comments.
“However, we don’t feel that we should get comfortable,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the group’s executive director. “We need to keep the pressure on.”
Neumann-Ortiz said Voces de la Frontera is now circulating online petitions, mobilizing support from dairy farmers who employ Latino workers and organizing more local chapters in addition to its existing chapters in Milwaukee, Madison and Racine.
While the statement from Fitzgerald’s office suggests Senate Republicans may not have an appetite for the bill, it is not a definitive sign the bill is dead.
A Senate committee passed the bill earlier this month. The full Senate could take it up when it convenes in March before concluding business for the 2015-2016 session. Republican leaders in the Assembly said Thursday was its final work day for the two-year session.
Meanwhile Friday, Vos cited Madison, along with Milwaukee County and Racine, as the “sanctuary cities” in Wisconsin that inspired the bill. The term typically is applied to cities that do not cooperate with federal officials to enforce immigration laws.
“(The bill) says that if somebody commits a murder, or rape, or is a drunk driver or any of those type of things; they should definitely ask about their immigration status and then potentially turn them over to the immigration services. They should already be doing that,” Vos told WTMJ radio.
Madison officials dispute being called a “sanctuary city.” Madison Police Chief Michael Koval, writing on his blog last year, called the term “a legal fiction.”
“MPD does not look for means to deport people,” Koval wrote. “However, we do hold people accountable for their criminal conduct. If the act(s) are egregious, we certainly cooperate with ICE (and will continue to do so) for acts that are worthy of deportation.”