RACINE - New legislation with similarities to Arizona's immigration law has started circulating in the Wisconsin Legislature.
State Rep. Don Pridemore, R-Hartford, is in the process of trying to get sponsors for a bill that would require law enforcement to determine if a person who is arrested or charged with a crime is legally in the country if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person may be an illegal immigrant.
It's a proposal which Maria Morales, the Racine coordinator for Voces de la Frontera, said is creating "another Arizona."
State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he would support the proposal.
"If someone is here illegally they should not be allowed to enjoy all the benefits taxpayers in Wisconsin provide," Vos said.
Currently, officers in the Racine Police Department do not ask if someone is a legal resident when they stop them, said Deputy Chief Art Howell of the Racine Police Department.
They do, however, ask for identification, and if someone doesn't have proof of who they are they can be detained, Howell said.
"We have to identify everyone we encounter. Otherwise you could give a false name and drive away," Howell said.
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After reading Pridemore's proposed bill, Howell said he would need to learn more about the intent of the bill before determining how it would affect the department and officer procedure.
The bill has mixed language, he said, because it says officers are "required" to ask. But then it says "if" they have reasonable suspicion.
Likewise, state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, a former Racine police officer, said he would have to learn more about the bill before taking a stance on it.
"It's been a busy week," he said.
When he was a police officer, people were already required to do background checks and report people who were illegal aliens.
"There is absolutely nothing new about this," he said. But he said he still wanted to learn more about it.
Pridemore did not return calls for comment on the bill.
On the other side of the political spectrum, state Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, who is against the bill, said it will lead to racial profiling.
If it does become a new form of racial profiling, it could end up affecting a large segment of Racine's population, considering the "Hispanic or Latino" population has jumped 42.8 percent since 2000, according to U.S. Census figures released
Thursday. The number of people who identify as Hispanic or Latino in
Racine increased from 11,422 in 2000 to 16,309 in 2010, according to U.S. Census figures.
"It's another law to divide people," Turner said.
He said the state Legislature should wait for Congress to pass a federal immigration law. That being said, he added he wouldn't be surprised if the state Legislature passes the bill.
"Based on other things ... I wouldn't put it past them," Turner said. "My faith in the democratic system has changed a bit."
In general, Vos said he believes most of his colleagues in the Legislature would support the bill. With the monthlong debate over collective bargaining, he said he has not heard much discussion on the immigration proposal.
But he said the recent debate over collective bargaining will not make legislators shy away from controversial issues: "We have shown the people in Wisconsin we are willing to make very tough decisions even if people say it will cost us at election time."