By Jeff Starck Mar. 24, 2011 Marshfield News Herald
Immigrant support groups from throughout Wisconsin say Gov. Scott Walker is targeting minority communities in his proposed budget by taking away vital resources to help balance Wisconsin’s budget.
Walker’s bill proposes to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students, eliminate Food Share benefits for legal immigrants and deny access to prenatal care for undocumented pregnant women.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the Milwaukee-based immigrant-rights group Voces de la Frontera, said the bill takes away resources for people who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. Neumann-Ortiz said the country’s immigration system, which has not been changed since the mid-1980s, can require people to wait years for documents to establish their residency status.
That makes it difficult for young adults who are starting families and trying to obtain an affordable college education, she said. Neumann-Ortiz noted that even undocumented immigrants must pay taxes and file tax reports even though they don’t qualify for all state aid programs.
“The youths are caught in a broken immigration system,” she said. “They are not getting a free ride. This isn’t anything their family hasn’t paid for.”
Jamely Trevino, a translator for the Merrill-based nonprofit support group Comunidad Hispana, said that Walker’s bill frightens many people in the central Wisconsin’s Hispanic community, but few actually use those programs.
Walker’s budget cuts come on the heels of a proposed bill by Rep. Don Pridemore, R-Hartford, that would make people arrested or charged with a crime in Wisconsin prove they were legally in the United States or they would be reported to federal immigration officials. The bill is similar to one passed in Arizona that has drawn criticism and lawsuits to block parts of the law.
Trevino said the bill, if made law, would scare away Hispanic families who are taking agricultural jobs that non-Hispanics refuse to do. Neumann-Ortiz said Pridemore’s bill would be challenged in court.
Peter Yang, executive director of the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association, said most Southeast Asians in central Wisconsin are legal residents, but an Arizona-type immigration law would affect every non-Caucasian person in the state.
“If you are from a different ethnic background and you’re stopped by law enforcement, they would be more likely to check your (status),” Yang said.