Protesters call for inclusion of drivers’ licenses, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants in state budget

NOW: Protesters call for inclusion of drivers’ licenses, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants in state budget

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Protesters calling for the state’s finance committee to keep proposals for allowing drivers’ licenses and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants briefly delayed the first meeting to address the state’s spending plan.

Protesters from across the state with immigrant rights advocacy group Voces de la Frontera occupied the entrance to the Joint Finance Committee room on the fourth floor of the state Capitol.

Officers with Capitol Police did not allow protesters to enter the room where the committee was set to meet. Protesters chanted and made speeches demanding the committee – controlled by Republicans – to keep certain proposals in the state budget proposed by Governor Tony Evers. The Democrat governor included items which would make it legal for undocumented immigrants residing in the state to obtain drivers’ licenses and in-state tuition.

“We are here today to stand in solidarity with Wisconsin immigrant workers, their families who have been deprived for too long for restoring drivers’ licenses and in-state tuition rates for immigrant youth,” one protester said.

The group said the two proposals – were they to become law – would have a major impact.

“[Something] as simple as drivers licenses, first of all it is safety for not just us, for undocumented immigrants but safety for the entire community, the city, the state,” Fernanda Jimenez, a community organizer with Voces and DACA recipient told CBS 58. “With in-state tuition like myself a DACA recipient, I cannot get in-state tuition and that really interferes with my public education to receive it and obviously getting a higher education is not even an opportunity for people like myself.”

Both drivers’ licenses and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants were cut during the Scott Walker administration but were included in Gov. Evers’ proposed budget.

Republicans who control the committee do not support the proposals and also believe they should be debated as bills and go through the legislative process, not be included in the state budget.

“We do not need a budget like the one the governor has proposed,” Joint Finance Committee Co-chair Rep. Mark Born (R – Beaver Dam) told reporters in a news conference Thursday. “He includes massive spending increases, large tax increases and a lot divisive policy items.”

The GOP-controlled committee cut those and other of the governor’s proposals from its budget, which is starting from the base of the 2019-2020 budget.

In a statement, Gov. Evers urged people to contact legislators to reinstate his proposals.

“We simply cannot afford for politics to get in the way of making sure we can recover and bounce back from this pandemic. Republicans have obstructed our ability to beat this virus every step of the way, and now they’re playing politics with our economic recovery,” Evers said. “Clearly these legislators need to hear directly from the same folks I’ve been listening to these past seven months, and that’s why I’m calling on Wisconsinites in every corner of the state today to contact their legislators and ask them to support our Badger Bounceback agenda.”

Organizers with Voces de la Frontera told CBS 58 the group intends to organize to return to the Capitol on May 27 to lobby for the proposals to be included in the budget.

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