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  1. #1
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    WI - Undocumented immigrants pose threat on roads

    Undocumented immigrants pose threat on roads
    by Andy Szal and Jacob Kushner

    Drivers beware: There's a woman driving a stretch of Interstate 90 between Sparta and Tomah—without a license or any training about Wisconsin's traffic laws.

    Her name is Victoria. She's a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico who works on a Tomah dairy farm with other undocumented immigrants whom, she says, "all understand our boss through signals" because of language barriers.

    Victoria, who arrived in Wisconsin 13 months ago, hasn't taken any drivers' training in the United States because Wisconsin law prohibits her from obtaining a license. She says she hasn't had any run-ins with police but requested that her last name be withheld out of fear she might be pursued as an illegal immigrant.

    She is among a growing number of illegal immigrants who are finding work on Wisconsin dairy farms, located in rural areas where the only way to get to work is by car.

    Immigrants now account for about 40 percent of the state's dairy labor force, up from just 5 percent a decade ago, according to a 2009 study by the UW-Madison Program on Agricultural Technology Studies.

    These 5,000 immigrants have become a critical part of the state's signature industry. While there are no estimates on how many of Wisconsin's immigrant dairy workers are here illegally, federal surveys have estimated that half of all immigrant crop workers nationwide lack immigration papers.

    Change rejected

    Many undocumented immigrants, including dairy workers, continue to drive without licenses after the defeat of a proposal in this year's budget that would have allowed them to get licensed.

    The measure, backed by some dairy farmers and law enforcement officers, would have reversed part of a 2005 state law passed to comply with the federal Real ID Act, which required applicants for a driver's license to submit proof of their citizenship or legal resident status. Its failure came as a blow to immigrant advocacy groups, which have long petitioned for the right of undocumented immigrants to drive legally in the state.

    "It shows that neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party in Wisconsin or nationally have the intention to fix the problems that are most urgent to our people," said Alex Gillis, advocate for the Madison immigration rights group Immigrant Workers' Union.

    The provision—authored by state Rep. Pedro Colón, D-Milwaukee—was added to the 2009-11 biennial budget by the legislative budget committee and approved by the Assembly earlier this year before being removed by the Senate. It was not included in the Legislature's final budget compromise signed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in June.

    'Breaking the law'

    Opponents argue Wisconsin shouldn't be in the business of ignoring state and federal immigration laws, regardless of the limitations on state agriculture and driving enforcement.

    "There's a tendency to sometimes accept the fact that we have people here breaking the law," said state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia.

    According to a 2008 study by Paul Dyk, a livestock agent with the UW Extension in Fond du Lac County, 78 percent of Hispanic workers at Eastern Wisconsin dairy farms arrive at work in their own car, but only 44 percent of Hispanic dairy workers have a driver's license.

    No one knows how many undocumented immigrants are driving without licenses in Wisconsin. But state Department of Transportation data show that after the law requiring applicants to submit proof of legal residence took effect in 2007, the number of people taking the Spanish-language version of the road skills knowledge test plummeted 91 percent—from 42,500 in 2006 to fewer than 4,000 in 2008. The number of applicants taking the English version of the test also declined during the period, but by just 23 percent.

    At a December meeting of the Dairy Business Association, a group of large dairy farm owners, Colón said the right to a driver's license represents "the most basic of what we call the American dream, this basic attainment of what we call happiness."

    Colón said his staff examined two states that have implemented similar laws—Utah and Tennessee.

    Tennessee, however, suspended its two-tier license program after the state found undocumented immigrants from neighboring states were attempting to acquire the licenses. The National Immigration Law Center estimated Tennessee issued 51,000 driving certificates to citizens who could not authenticate their legal status.

    'Know the rules'

    Mario Garcia, youth coordinator at the Madison-based nonprofit agency Centro Hispano, said the inability of immigrant workers to drive legally makes Wisconsin roads dangerous for all.

    "You want people who are driving to really know the rules, really know the laws," said Garcia, echoing a view expressed by some law-enforcement officials. "When they commit an infraction, you want the local enforcement to be able to identify them."

    The budget proposal would have required the limited-use licenses to appear "distinctive" from standard driver's licenses and also would have required language on the new licenses to stipulate they could be used for driving only. Cardholders could not have used their cards for other identification verification purposes, such as cashing a check or boarding a commercial flight.

    With Democrats in the majority in both houses, Republican opposition wasn't enough to derail Colón's proposal. Once the budget moved onto the Senate, however, some Democrats, including Sen. Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee, opposed the measure, citing constituents' strong reactions.

    Lawmakers on both sides of the driver's license issue are united in one aspect: The Wisconsin Legislature shouldn't be in the position of dictating immigration policy.

    For now, Colón says he has no plans to reintroduce the plan as a stand-alone bill. In addition to the already difficult path it faces in the Legislature, Colón believes federal lawmakers are ready to make the state's job easier by reforming how the nation deals with illegal immigrants.

    Andy Szal is a reporter for wispolitics.com. Jacob Kushner is a reporter for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (wisconsinwatch.org). The two organizations collaborated on this report for Dairyland Diversity, an ongoing project with The Country Today newspaper examining how immigration is reshaping Wisconsin's dairy industry.

    http://wclo.com/news/2009/dec/19/undocu ... eat-roads/
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Dixie's Avatar
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    Should make it illegal to sale or transfer a car to illegal aliens.

    Once again, two dishonest individuals endanger everyone on the highway.

    Wouldn't a road block and dozens of tow trucks solve this problem?

    Dixie
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  3. #3
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    I am sure that someone will start screaming racial profiling quickly, especially if the roadblock is on some road used by illegals to get to their jobs. That would be so discriminatory and not PC!
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  4. #4
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    hmmm

    I've been a LEGAL resident of five countries.

    In none of those countries could a foreigner (or citizen, for that matter) buy a car, register a car, or purchase insurance WITHOUT A LEGAL RESIDENT CARD AND LEGAL VALID RESIDENCE VISA.

  5. #5
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    OK wisconsin police, you now know where to look for illegals and you
    better stop em and arrest em.

    Wonder how many dairy farms there are in this small town mentioned.
    ICE ARE YOU READING THIS

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