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Republicans once again target sanctuary cities (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican proposals targeting sanctuary cities that offer protections for immigrants living in the country illegally are back in the Wisconsin Legislature, after a similar effort died last year following an outpouring of opposition.

Two bills, including one circulated this week by the same sponsors as a failed measure last year, attempt to force local governments to comply with federal immigration laws.

The proposals pit law-and-order Republicans against the immigrant community and local officials in the state’s largest cities that have declared themselves to be safe havens for immigrants.

The push against sanctuary cities is coming from both the state and federal levels. President Donald Trump in January signed an executive order to withdraw funding from sanctuary cities that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Trump also reversed many immigration enforcement policies from former President Barack Obama’s administration, including focusing deportation efforts on terrorists, criminals and gang members.

The reaction in Wisconsin to cracking down on sanctuary cities has been mixed.

Last year’s bill that blocked police from asking criminal defendants about their immigration status garnered strong opposition from the state’s immigrant community. A couple thousand of pro-immigrant demonstrators marching at the Capitol against the proposal.

Even Gov. Scott Walker last year said he was “just fine” with the Legislature not passing the bill. His spokesman did not immediately reply to a message Thursday seeking comment about the latest proposal.

The bill passed the state Assembly last year but died from lack of support in the Senate. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was reviewing the proposal to see how it differed from the one last session and had no immediate comment, said his spokeswoman Myranda Tanck.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a conservative firebrand who has been outspoken against sanctuary cities, said on his Facebook page that he supports the new bills. His position runs contrary to the Democratic leaders of Madison and Milwaukee.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin last month reaffirmed Madison’s sanctuary city status, but said the city does comply with federal detainer requests. Madison passed a resolution in 2010 calling on the Dane County sheriff to stop reporting immigration status to federal authorities, though it had no legal effect.

A 2012 Milwaukee County Board non-binding resolution called on the sheriff not to cooperate with federal immigration detention requests unless a person has been convicted of serious crimes, is a gang member or is a suspected terrorist.

The latest bill circulated Wednesday for sponsors would prohibit local governments from enacting any ordinances, resolutions or policies that would prevent federal immigration laws from being enforced. It would also require local governments to comply with any request made by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain an immigrant who may be in the country illegally.

Law enforcement officials would not be required to ask every person they arrest about their immigration status, but they would have to check a person’s immigration status if required to do so under federal law, said Mike Mikalsen, a spokesman for the measure’s co-sponsor, Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

Violators could face a reduction of state aid of up to $5,000 a day.

Democratic Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, of Milwaukee, said the bill and a similar one by Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, sends the message that Republicans are “champions for anti-immigrant efforts.”

“It will have a chilling effect across the state if it becomes law,” Zamarripa said.

Nass and other co-sponsors call the measure a “common sense” proposal to “ensure protection for all Wisconsin citizens as well as those visiting our state.” They cite the 2015 fatal shooting of a woman by a Mexican immigrant in San Francisco illegally. The San Francisco County sheriff’s office had released the suspect earlier that year, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him.

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