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President Trump's immigration idea dismissed by Wisconsin officials

Posted at 2:01 PM, Apr 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-15 15:01:42-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Democratic congressman and the leader of a Wisconsin immigrant rights group on Monday both dismissed President Donald Trump's proposal to send detained migrants to so-called sanctuary cities, which could include Milwaukee, Madison and Racine.

Trump has said he wants to explore the move, which officials in his administration have twice rejected, as part of his drive to tighten immigration laws. Officials in sanctuary cities, which tend to be in Democratic areas, limit local police and correction officers from working with federal authorities seeking to arrest or deport people living in the country illegally.

Milwaukee County, Madison and Racine have all been generally recognized as sanctuary areas in the state. Local leaders in those communities did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

But U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Black Earth who represents Madison and south-central Wisconsin, said local officials shouldn't worry about an influx of immigrants any time soon.

"It's an idea that's so stupid and so silly no one expects it to be real," Pocan said of the Trump proposal. "It just means that the president's crazy. No one takes this especially seriously."

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, which advocates for immigrants in Wisconsin, called the Trump proposal unconstitutional, "absurd" and a means to use refugees "as political theater in the cruelest ways."

Her group supports sanctuary cities and has worked to stop a Republican-authored bill in the Legislature that would make it illegal for local governments to prevent enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The Wisconsin proposal barring sanctuary cities was last proposed in 2017 but did not get a vote in the state Assembly or Senate. The Assembly passed it in 2016, but it died in the Senate. It was introduced for a fourth time earlier this month by Rep. John Spiros and Sen. Steve Nass, both Republicans.

"Illegal immigration has become both a national security and humanitarian crisis," Nass said in a statement Monday. "Unfortunately, the federal government has failed to reform our immigration laws due to the obstruction of Congressional Democrats and now states must address serious issues as a direct result of this national crisis."

Nass did not comment on the Trump proposal that could lead to relocating refugees in Wisconsin.

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Neumann-Ortiz said her group wasn't worried about the bill banning sanctuary cities in Wisconsin because she was confident Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would veto it. Evers has proposed making driver's licenses and state IDs available to people who are living in the country illegally, a move that Voces de la Frontera and others who work with the immigrant community have cheered.

Winning approval for that idea, which is part of Evers' state budget, is the focus, rather than worrying about Trump floating the possibility of relocating refugees to sanctuary cities, Neumann-Ortiz said.

"I see it as more of the theater of the absurd that's coming out of Washington, D.C.," she said of the sanctuary cities idea. However, making driver's licenses available to people here illegally will make the roads safer and give them greater access to gainful employment, she said.