Immigrants, backers rally for driver's licenses in Wisconsin

May 2, 2019

People crowd the steps of the Capitol during the Day Without Latinxs' rally Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in Madison, Wis. Thousands of people showed upon to rally and march in support of Gov. Tony Evers' proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. Buses from 17 Wisconsin cities brought people to Madison for the event.

MADISON, Wis.  Immigrants and their supporters converged Wednesday on the Wisconsin Capitol to rally for Gov. Tony Evers' proposal that would make driver's licenses available to people who are living in the country illegally.

Many at the rally carried signs that read "Driver's Licenses for All" and called on Republican legislative leaders to reach a compromise with Evers and pass his proposal. The event, part of the annual nationwide May 1 day of action, attracted 4,000 to the Capitol, based on an estimate from Madison police.

If approved, Wisconsin would join 12 other states that currently provide driver's licenses to immigrants living in the country illegally.

"We are standing and marching today with our families, friends, co-workers and people we don't even know to demand driver's licenses for people in Wisconsin and across this country," said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, director of the rally's organizer, Voces de la Frontera.

The immigrants' rights group said tens of thousands of people were on strike Wednesday, and more than 175 Wisconsin businesses closed, as part of the effort to show the economic impact Latinos have both in the state and across the country.

A marcher cheers during the Day Without Latins' rally Wednesday, May 1, 2019
at the Capitol in Madison, Wis.

Neumann-Ortiz and others who spoke in support, including the mayor and police chief of Madison, said it was an economic and social justice issue, and about keeping roads safe.

"I want driver's licenses for all!" said Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said on the steps of the Capitol as the thousands listening cheered. "So I hope the Legislature is listening. We want a hearing."

Republican legislative leaders are not supportive.

"Immigrants do indeed make Wisconsin stronger," Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted in response to an Evers tweet praising the rally. "Illegal immigrants however, are breaking the law and we should not validate that by extending privileges."

Evers said Tuesday his proposal to make the licenses available is common sense, but he also expects Republicans who control the Legislature to block it. The proposal is part of Evers' two-year budget, but he said he thinks it will be one of the first items removed by Republicans.

Alejandro Agustin, left, and Maria Jardon, of Waukesha demonstrate during the
protest at the Wisconsin Capitol.

Immigrants without proper documentation could receive driver's licenses in Wisconsin until 2007. That's when the Legislature changed the law to require residents to prove they were in the United States legally.

Evers ran in support of making the driver's licenses available as well as allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition.

Republicans oppose the in-state tuition plan, which is also in Evers' budget, a version of which they stripped from state law in 2011.

If the driver's license proposal is removed from the budget, Evers said it will be introduced as a separate bill. As envisioned by Evers, the IDs given to people here illegally could not be used for voting.

Numerous groups are behind the idea, including the Dairy Business Association, which Evers said he thinks will help convince resistant Republicans.

Getting Evers to propose in-state tuition and driver's licenses for all immigrants is a partial victory, Neumann-Ortiz said.

"We now have to organize statewide, wider and deeper than ever before," she said.

White House wants $4.5 billion in emergency border funding

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan prepares for a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on his agency's future funding, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 30, 2019.

WASHINGTON The Trump administration on Wednesday asked Congress for an additional $4.5 billion in emergency funds for the U.S.-Mexico border as it grapples with a surge of Central American migrant families seeking refuge in the U.S.

Most of the money requested would be used to increase shelter capacity and care for the migrant families who have been fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries. Department of Homeland Security officials said they would likely run out of money without the extra cash.

"DHS projects it will exhaust resources well before the end of the fiscal year," read the administration's formal request letter to Congress, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The request is just the latest in a flurry of efforts by the administration to cope with what it calls a "crisis" that officials say has overwhelmed federal resources and capacity. President Donald Trump has railed against aides and Congress for failing to do more to address the situation, but has also made clear he believes his hard line on immigration was key to his 2016 victory and intends to continue to hammer the issue to motivate his base heading into his 2020 reelection campaign.

It also comes a day after a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy in the care of U.S. Health and Human Services died after falling ill with a fever and chills. His death is under investigation. Two other children died in Customs and Border Protection custody late last year.

The 2019 fiscal year budget already contained $415 million for humanitarian assistance at the border, including $28 million in medical care, senior administration officials said Wednesday.

But the White House now wants an extra $3.3 billion to increase shelter capacity for unaccompanied migrant children and for the feeding and care of families, plus transportation and processing centers.

Of the new request, $1.1 billion would go toward operational support, including personnel expenses, detention beds, transportation and investigative work on smuggling. The remaining $178 million would be used for mission support, including technology upgrades.

It's unclear, however, if Congress will approve the extra funding. Getting Democrats and Republicans to agree on how to address the border situation has been a challenge, especially on the heels of the longest government shutdown in history over Trump's demand for border wall funding. Trump eventually declared a national emergency declaration to circumvent Congress to get the funding elsewhere.

Senior administration officials, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the request by name, said the new money would not be used for border barriers and said the funds were different from those Trump has sought to access through his declaration of a national emergency.

The number of families and children arriving alone at the border is now outpacing the number of single adults, putting new strains on the immigration system. The U.S. is on track to have as many as 1 million cross this year, the highest number since the early 2000s, when most of those crossing were single men from Mexico looking for work.

Border stations were not constructed to handle such a large volume of children and families, and they have been pushed to the breaking point.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 50,036 unaccompanied children during the last budget year, and so far this budget year there have been 35,898 children. Their average length of stay in a government shelter is 66 days, up from 59 during fiscal year 2018 and 40 in 2016's fiscal year.

Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday encountered its largest group to date: 424 people, comprised mostly of children and families, in rural New Mexico.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Tuesday before a House subcommittee that his department was running out of money amid the spike and said officials would be submitting a supplemental request, but didn't say for how much.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Russell Vought, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the crisis was overwhelming the ability of the federal government to respond.

"The situation becomes more dire every day," he wrote.

The official request also said the Department of Health and Human Services, which manages the care of migrant children who arrive alone or who are separated from their parents by DHS under certain circumstances, will exhaust its resources by June. The funding request includes $2.8 billion to increase shelter capacity to about 23,600 total beds for unaccompanied children.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said her committee would take a thorough look at the request, but blamed Trump's administration for contributing to the crisis.

"As a country, we must do more to meet the needs of migrants especially children and families who are arriving in increasing numbers," she said. "However, the Trump administration appears to want much of this $4.5 billion emergency supplemental request to double down on cruel and ill-conceived policies."

House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., also weighed in, saying she would assess the administration's funding request, while "fighting for policies that will keep our country secure while treating migrants fairly and humanely, and addressing the root causes of migration."


Associated Press