Fact Sheet: Pridemore Arizona-type anti-immigrant bill

This fact sheet on an Arizona-type anti-immigrant bill introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature was prepared by WNPJ member group Voces de la Frontera:

What is the problem with Rep. Pridemore’s proposed Arizona type bill? 

This bill proposed by state Representative Pridemore from Hartford, Wisconsin promotes  discrimination, is unconstitutional, will reduce public safety, and will be very expensive to the  State.
In what way does this bill promote racial discrimination? 

As the AZ SB1070 law, Pridemore’s legislation claims that it will not be based on racial profiling, but as it requires that every law enforcement officer interrogate the people they detain about their immigration status if they have an undefined ‘reasonable suspicion” that the person is undocumented, it encourages police officers to base themselves on people’s appearance and characteristics as race, ethnicity, language, and social class (i.e. if the person drives an old car and is a Latino). 

Ironically, Republican politicians are trying to eliminate another law passed in 2009 which provides training for police officers to avoid racial profiling and data collection regarding the reason for a traffic stop and the individual’s race. 

The bill also requires people to have certain documents available to prove their immigration status or else risk being arrested, jailed, and deported.  Knowing that people of color will be disproportionately affected by discrimination and they will be more likely to be interrogated; this also violates their rights to be treated as equals under the law. Americans include people of all races, cultures and ethnic origin. This proposed bill would mean going back to times prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, returning colored people to second class citizenship status.

In what way is it unconstitutional?

This legislation violates numerous US Constitutional rules, among them stands out the denial of Fourteenth Amendment equal protection guarantees, because it illegally encourages racial discrimination against Latinos and other people having foreign appearance or who sound foreign. 

By interfering with the federal government’s authority to regulate and enforce immigration law, it also opposes the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution. 

Such legislation is wrong policy because the US cannot have a patchwork of contradictory immigration laws depending on which state you are in. 
This legislation goes far beyond federal laws by mandating that every police officer and state law officer request documents from the persons they detain and consider to be in the country without proper immigration status. There is no such requirement under federal law. This law goes against the presumption of innocence by mandating law enforcement officers to demand from people on  the street proof of US citizenship or their immigration status even though they have done nothing wrong. 

By setting a 48 hour limit for the individual to prove legal status, this bill clearly violates the Fifth Amendment which guarantees the due process. 

Wouldn’t you agree that being illegally in this country is a crime? Don’t we expect that law enforcement officers prevent a crime from taking place? 

This law would make Wisconsin a police state where all Latino residents and others who appear or sound foreign would be treated as possible crime suspects.  Federal immigration regulations are very complex and entail both civil and criminal penalties. Congress has chosen not to consider a crime the sole presence in the US without permit.  There is nothing that prevents police from investigating a true criminal conduct and activity within the limits of the Constitution.  Remember that being undocumented is not a crime.

While Representative Pridemore claims that this proposal will only be applied to people convicted of serious crimes, the truth is that this law will affect innocent persons who have been charged of a crime and civil violations, for example jay-walking (101-9); extreme noise (80-63); barking dogs (78-29); not having dog’s or cat’s licenses (78-17); public spitting(80-15);   skateboard/roller skate violations (105-19); leaving keys inside parked vehicle (101-30); public smoking violations (105-48); playing baseball outside designated areas (105-20.5; 20.52); street  auto repair (105-66); youth curfew violations (106-23). 

What is wrong with Wisconsin police enforcing immigration laws? 

As it has been recognized by several important law enforcement officers, this law would greatly harm the trust that authorities need from the public to protect Wisconsin residents and would create mistrust towards law enforcement officers in the communities they serve. The law would also compel law enforcement officers to assign scarce resources to investigate false threats instead of clarifying serious crimes. The criminal judicial system would be weakened because crime victims would become more vulnerable and would not be willing to report crimes and witnesses would be afraid of cooperating, fearing their legal status investigation. Local police would be in the difficult position to rely on racial prejudice and discrimination when asking someone who appears to be foreigner to prove his or her legal status. 

In what way would it harm Wisconsin’s economy? 

A recent report from the Center for American Progress documents that cities or states that have tried to pass anti-immigrant laws have spent millions of dollars trying to defend unconstitutional laws in court and have had a negative impact on their economies. 

For example, Arizona will have a $388 million loss due to the boycott impact over the next two or three years, and unemployment for thousands of workers and $133 million on lost wages. 

Farmers Branch, Texas has already spent more than $4 million on a legal claim since 2006, trying to defend its anti-immigrant law and Hazelton, Pennsylvania has spent $2.8 million defending its anti-immigrant ordinance. 

Besides, the anti-immigrant climate causes Latinos, with or without legal status, to leave the state creating loss of tax revenues and forcing business closures, abandoned houses, and reducing the value of other houses when more people leave the neighborhoods.  

According to the survey “New Americans in the Badger State” by the Immigration Policy Center:

  • In 2009 the purchasing power of Latinos and Asiatics in Wisconsin totaled $5.7
  • billion, a 627.4% increment since 1990. Additionally, Latino businesses had an income of $975.5 million and employed 9,011 people in 2002.  
  • Immigrant workers are more than 40%of the Dairy workers (around 5,316 workers).  
  • Immigrant workers spend around $14.9 million per year in Wisconsin and  $8.7 million in tax revenues to the state.  
  • If all undocumented workers left Wisconsin, the state would lose $2.6 billion in economic activity, a total of $1.2 billion in state income, and approximately 14,579 jobs.   
  • Mexico is the second country receiving the greatest number of Wisconsin exports and this would harm the relationship between these two.  

What is causing this policy to move forward? 

Corporate interests such as private prisons. The largest of which is Corrections Corporation of America which makes money criminalizing immigrants and filling prisons. It has been acknowledged that CCC, in a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a club where large corporations pay millions to have access to legislators, wrote the Arizona SB1070 legislation and is promoting it among legislators of other states. Some Wisconsin Republicans are part of this club. 

The same as with public employees or low income families, politicians representing the largest corporations and the wealthiest people are using different groups of workers—such as immigrants—as scapegoats to continue with the same policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  
Racist groups, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and its networks, that have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have been actively involved in the drafting and efforts to pass such laws.