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Numerous arrests at DACA rally including Bryce, Myers

RACINE — For about 15 minutes Monday afternoon, traffic on Main Street came to a halt as about 30 protesters locked arms, sat in the intersection of Sixth and Main streets and were eventually arrested for obstruction.

The group was protesting in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was supposed to expire Monday. But federal courts have put its future into question.

Among those arrested were congressional candidates Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers. Both are running for the Democratic Party nomination to face off against House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st District. Like the others rounded up by police, they were handcuffed and put into police vans, taken away and cited for obstruction, a misdemeanor.

Afterward, Bryce said getting arrested was the right thing to do.

“Paul Ryan has done nothing, as far as leadership for the 1st District. He’s the speaker of the White House — not speaker for our house,” Bryce said. “These are kids that are being held hostage through no fault of their own … this is the only home they know.”

Myers said she was asked by a “Dreamer” — as DACA beneficiaries are commonly known — to be part of the event and said it was the first time she has been arrested.

“The politics that have been played with their lives is just profoundly wrong to me,” Myers said. “Paul Ryan has been promising to do something for a very long time and has done nothing. So when I spoke about people playing politics … that’s what I’m talking about.”

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order providing protection from deportation to minors who were illegally brought to the United States by their parents.

DACA deadline for US immigrants arrives with less urgency

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A program that temporarily shields hundreds of thousands of young people from deportation was scheduled to end Monday but court orders have forced the Trump administration to keep issuing renewals. That removed some of the urgency of a hard deadline, but advocates weren't letting up in their efforts to get permanent protection.

In September the Trump Administration rescinded DACA and set Monday, March 5, as the expiration date. However, a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear the administration’s case has bought Congress some time to try to come up with a solution.

Fernanda Jimenez, a DACA recipient and Horlick High School student, said her immigrant status won’t expire for another year, but some in her family are in jeopardy of deportation.

“I have siblings where their (DACA) has expired already and they’re trying to reapply,” Jimenez said. “They’re basically undocumented and they don’t have that protection that DACA (provides). And if my siblings and my parents were to be separated from me, I would be alone, and I don’t know what I would do without my family.”

Acts of civil disobedience

About 150 students — some with excuses from their parents, most without — walked out of Horlick in protest for DACA. They were joined by roughly 200 other students from Milwaukee who also walked out of their classrooms.

Racine Unified School Board member Michael Frontier said he does not condone students missing class, but he understood why many did.

“Issues of justice are an important part of learning,” Frontier said. “Some of the best experiences I had in college were outside of the classroom … I support kids using their constitutional freedoms and learning about democracy and advocating for a better America.”

Racine City Alderman John Tate II, who was present but not arrested, said those who got arrested were “in a position to make change doing a thing the kids can’t do themselves.”

“These are children that the law was built for; these are children that are standing up for their own futures,” Tate said. “And it’s our responsibility as adults, as elected officials and other members of the community … to stand with these children as they try to get their own rights instilled into law instead of executive action.”

Valeria Ruiz, a Racine native, DACA recipient and activist, said it was encouraging to see people get arrested for this cause.

Ruiz called the actions of adults who allowed themselves to be arrested “heartwarming.”

“As allies, they can do more than what we can,” she said.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant activist group based in Milwaukee, was one of the people arrested. She said the younger generation is leading the fight on this issue.

“So many youths are coming together from diverse backgrounds to really lead the fight around restoring protections for Dreamers and just to push back at all the hate that’s being directed at different communities,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “To me it really shows there’s a change in the time we’re living in.”

She said people are recognizing that there’s tremendous injustice, and Congress is not doing enough.

“Paul Ryan knows what it’s like to not have his father in his life, and he has the power right now to keep fathers with their children,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “The people are calling on him to use his power to stand up for the people in his district and around the country.”

At age 16, Ryan lost his father to a heart attack.

Jordan Dunn, spokesman for Ryan said in a statement: “The speaker appreciates those making their voices heard today. While court decisions have pushed the deadline on this issue until much later in the year, the speaker remains committed to finding a permanent solution for the DACA population. He continues to work with his colleagues to reach consensus on a plan that protects these young people while also strengthening border security and better enforcing our immigration laws.”

Impact felt

While Congress debates the future of DACA, the results have been felt by some of those directly impacted by decisions at the federal level.

Horlick student Yessica Ramirez came to the United States with her mother when she was 4, and has applied for DACA status.

Ramirez said she was denied DACA status last summer because she had not provided enough proof that she was in the country for those many years.

“Even though I was a minor, I had to get a criminal background check, I had to show proof that I was living in this country for the many years that I was, so I had to provide them with school records, medical records … and I guess what I sent was not enough” Ramirez said.

She described herself as “undocumented and unafraid,” and said now with the program rescinded she cannot reapply.

“It pretty much ruined my whole summer,” Ramirez said. “I already made plans that once I started school I would get a job, get my driver’s license just like all of my other friends, but I wasn’t able to because (DACA was rescinded) it before I had a chance to reapply.”

In photos: Marchers rally in support of DACA

20 years in prison for drunken-driving, double-fatal crash

RACINE — Emotions ran high in a packed courtroom as a 27-year-old Caledonia man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday for reportedly driving drunk and killing a father and daughter in a 2016 car crash.

“We are here for sentencing on what everyone has conceded is a tragic case,” said Racine County Circuit Court Judge Emily Mueller. “We all understand the gravity of these sentencings.”

In December, Ruohonen pleaded no contest to two felony counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

For each count, Mueller sentenced Ruohonen to 30 years, split between 20 years of incarceration and 10 years of extended supervision. The sentences will run concurrently. The maximum sentence is a $100,000 fine and/or 40 years in prison per count.

“The gravity of this offense and the impact on this family cannot be measured,” Mueller said. “It is a profound loss that this court doesn’t have the ability to make right. Making it right would bring these two people back and I can’t do that ... this was a loss that was caused by the defendant’s decision to drive drunk.”

Fatal crash

At about 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2016, near the intersection of Four Mile and Short roads in Caledonia, police say Ruohonen crashed his four-door pickup truck into the back of a car driven by Kevin M. Dalley, 39. Dalley’s daughter Emily, 9, and another daughter, 6, were both in the car at the time.

Kevin and Emily were killed in the crash. The 6-year-old was injured but survived.

The Dalleys were just yards from their home when the crash occurred. The impact reportedly was so powerful that an officer reported he “was unable to discern where the truck ended and the sedan started.”

Impact ‘cannot be measured’

Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson began by pointing out the seriousness of what Ruohonen had done and the impact on not only the Dalley family, but the community.

“Obviously, the impact of this and what happened here really cannot be measured,” Hanson said.

Hanson mentioned that the crash scene so affected the officer who first responded that he was in court for the sentencing.

Jennifer Dalley, widow of Kevin and mother of Emily, was in court but asked not to be photographed or interviewed.

Hanson addressed Ruohonen’s 2011 drunken driving charge, in which he had a 0.21 blood-alcohol concentration.

“I’m not here to tell you he’s (Ruohonen) an evil monster who set out that morning to kill two members of the Dalley family,” Hanson said. “I think he’s a person who just didn’t know when to say ‘when’ and made a terrible mistake.”

Although the state did not request a specific amount of time in prison, a “substantial prison” time was recommended.

“Mr. Ruohonen asks you to give him a chance at a life and family, but let’s remember that we’re not just here for him today,” Hanson said. “He took that away from the Dalleys and has forced them to find a new kind of normal.”

‘Deeply, deeply sorry’

Craig Mastantuono, Ruohonen’s attorney, said Ruohonen has been apologetic since the crash and done whatever he could to atone for and take responsibility for his actions.

“Having been a witness to him (Ruohonen) and his reactions from the day after he made this tragic error in judgment that resulted in this terrible loss, until now, he has never been anything but deeply, deeply sorry for the harm that he caused that, frankly, his words nor my words can characterize accurately — and I won’t attempt to do that,” Mastantuono said.

Mastantuono went on to describe how after Ruohonen was out on bond, he worked daily to pay his mortgage, car payment and car insurance to be able to liquidate the assets and contribute to restitution for the Dalley family.

“We tell them all the time to honor conditions, to accept responsibility, to act in a way that’s contrary to their actions on the worst day of their lives when they cause the most harm, and I really believe, as an officer of the court, that we have to mean that those things matter when we tell people to do them,” Mastantuono said.

He asked the court to consider sentencing Ruohonen to five to 10 years in prison.

“I think it’s substantial for somebody who has never been incarcerated to go to prison for 10 years,” Mastantuono said. “I think when Mr. Ruohonen is 10 years older than now, at that point we enter into more of an arbitrary assessment of when enough is enough in terms of incarceration.”

Gregory Shaver 

Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson gives Levi G. Ruohonen tissues during his sentencing hearing March 5, 2018, before Racine County Circuit Court Judge Emily Mueller. Ruohenen was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the November 2016 drunken driving crash that killed Kevin M. Dalley of Caledonia and his daughter, Emily Dalley, 9.

After his attorney spoke, Ruohonen, who spent a large portion of the court proceedings in tears, addressed the court. Between heavy sobs that made him nearly unintelligable, Ruohonen apologized to the Dalley family.

“I want to start out by saying that I’m so truly sorry to the victims’ family and anyone else negatively affected,” he said. “I’d do anything to take back what happened. I would trade places with them in a heartbeat. ... I’ll say it a million times and it will never be enough; I’m so truly sorry.”

Sentence explained

Mueller’s sentence was nearly twice what the defense requested. She explained her reasoning.

“I believe that the time that has been requested by the defense, that is 5 to 10 years, is wholly inadequate to reflect the gravity of this offense and that 20 years provides both substantial period of incarceration but also the potential of rehabilitation of this defendant,” she said.

Gregory Shaver 

Racine County Circuit Court Judge Emily Mueller listnes to Levi G. Ruohonen March 5, 2018, during his sentencing hearing. She sentenced Ruohenen to 20 years in prison for the November 2016 drunken driving crash that killed Kevin M. Dalley of Caledonia and his daughter, Emily Dalley, 9.

“I understand for the family that no time can be enough, and I understand your desire that this court impose a sentence in which Mr. Ruohonen will not get out of prison,” Mueller said.

“But the law and justice and some sort of mercy require me to consider all of these components: both the extraordinary gravity of this offense, the character of Mr. Ruohonen and his, I believe, sincere attempts to try to begin to atone,” Mueller added. “And also (to consider), the protection of the public and I believe that under all of the circumstances, this sentence provides that balance.”

“I would trade places with them in a heartbeat.” Levi Ruohonen, defendant
in 2016 double fatal crash

Marquette Poll
As Scott Walker campaigns for a third term, poll finds shifting political landscape

MADISON — As Gov. Scott Walker campaigns for a third term, the political landscape in 2018 has shifted in many ways from the last time he was up for re-election.

Voters are concerned about a $3 billion taxpayer subsidy for a Taiwanese company that Walker championed, more interested in spending on education than the tax cuts that have been a hallmark of his time in office, and unhappy with President Donald Trump, according to a Marquette Law School Poll released Monday.

Walker’s job approval level is exactly the same as it was in March 2014, the poll found. Both then and now 47 percent of registered voters approved of his job performance and 47 percent disapproved with 6 percent unsure.

But unlike four years ago there is a Republican president in the White House, and half (50 percent) of the registered voters in the state disapprove of the job he’s doing. Four years ago, 47 percent disapproved of the job Democratic President Barack Obama was doing.

There is also “profound skepticism” about whether a $3 billion tax credit for Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn will benefit local businesses, according to poll director Charles Franklin.

After the historic economic development project was announced last year it was described by one Republican as a “grand slam, walk-off home run” for Walker’s re-election prospects, but Democrats have continued to hammer it as a waste of taxpayer dollars that would be better spent on schools and roads.

The poll found 38 percent of registered voters say the Foxconn subsidy is worth it compared with 49 percent who say it’s not. Another 13 percent don’t know.

And while 57 percent say the Milwaukee region will get a boost from the $10 billion factory expected to employ up to 13,000 workers, 66 percent said it wouldn’t benefit local businesses in their area, with particular skepticism in rural parts of the state.

Additionally, 62 percent raised concerns about the environmental impact of the factory. The poll also asked in general whether economic development or environmental protection should be given a priority, and 68 percent said environmental protection.

“Folks outside of the major metro areas and especially in the southeast see their regions being ignored and disadvantaged,” Franklin said. “Whether we’re unified as a state that sees general benefits or divided that sees only those folks down there getting theirs is a big deal.”

Walker defended his record and the Foxconn deal on Monday after the poll was released.

“Bringing 13,000 good-paying, family-supporting jobs to WI is the right thing to do — regardless of politics,” he wrote on Twitter. “We are getting positive things done for the people of Wisconsin and we have an optimistic vision for the future.”

Shift in attitudes

For much of his governorship Walker has focused on lowering income and property taxes across the board, while cutting spending on education, though in his latest budget he has pumped more money into K-12 and higher education.

The latest poll found a shift in attitudes on those issues. In March 2013, the Marquette poll found 49 percent said cutting taxes was more important than increasing school funding, which was favored by 45 percent of respondents. In the latest poll, 63 percent said increasing school funding was more important, compared with 33 percent who favored tax cuts.

“That has shifted a lot over the four years since the first time we asked about this,” Franklin said. “It’s reflected in other questions we ask as well that show a greater concern for public education and K-12 spending.”

Walker also faces greater skepticism about the health of the state budget than in 2014. About 31 percent said the budget is in better shape than it was a few years ago, while 28 percent said it was in worse shape. Four years ago around this time 48 percent said it was in better shape and 25 percent said it was in worse shape.

On other political issues large majorities favor the traditional Democratic position, although that support has been fairly consistent over time among Wisconsin voters.

The poll found 81 percent support universal background checks on gun sales and 56 percent support banning assault-style weapons.

Also, 71 percent say immigrants living in the country illegally should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship and 86 percent believe immigrants brought to the country illegally as children should be granted citizenship.

And 59 percent oppose building a wall along the Mexican border, which was a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign.

Job approval numbers climbing

None of that means voters are ready to buck Walker, however, with 53 percent saying the state is on the right track and 44 percent saying its headed in the wrong direction. That’s fairly similar to the poll results in March 2014, when 54 percent said the state was on the right track and 42 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

Walker had seen his job approval numbers slowly, but steadily improve since he dropped out of the presidential race in September 2015. In June, 48 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved of how he was handling his job, which is almost identical to what they are now.

And unlike March 2014, when Madison School Board member Mary Burke was well on her way to becoming the Democratic nominee with 41 percent of voters having an opinion about her, the Democratic primary remains somewhat muddled. Only 33 percent offered an opinion about the top candidate, while the other eight top contenders are even more obscure.

The poll included 800 registered voters between Feb. 25 and March 1. The margin of error was +/-4.5 percentage points. For state and national issue questions the sample was split in half so the margin of error was +/-6.3 percentage points.