Wisconsin Residents and Lawmakers Await Supreme Court Immigration Ruling

Apr 18, 2016

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court begins considering a divisive issue related to immigration. The case originated in Texas, but the implications are potentially broad-reaching. Interests in Wisconsin are keeping close watch.

You may have heard acronyms for the programs President Obama created for some undocumented residents: DACA and DAPA. The first would enable some to stay in the U.S. if they were brought here as children. The second would clear a legal path for those who have a child who is a U.S. citizen.

Milwaukee resident Francisca Vazquez has two young children born here, and a third on the way. "We have a little -- some -- issues, and we're basically afraid of my husband getting deported. He's in deportation proceedings right now," she says.

At the Milwaukee offices of the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, Vazquez says that she and her husband moved to Milwaukee as newlyweds 14 years ago because they wanted a better life. "In Mexico basically, there's no work. There's no opportunities for us at this moment," she says.

Now her husband works at a dairy farm, while she takes care of the children. That path from Mexico to Wisconsin is a common and long-standing one, according to John Holevoet of the Dairy Business Association.

"Without them, we couldn't maintain our position as America's Dairyland," Holevoet says.

His organization has been educating the public about the value of the immigrant workforce. So has Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. Its head, Mitch Breunig, says the president's programs DAPA and DACA would benefit thousands of people who work on state farms.

"I think that it's really important that families that have been in the United States for a long, long time continue to be able to remain together and that we're not ripping families apart, because that's bad for America," Breunig says.

Breunig says the workers are valuable because they take jobs farmers otherwise would be unable to fill.

The two industry groups won't take an official stand on the legal issues surrounding President Obama's programs. But Wisconsin politicians have weighed in. Attorney General Brad Schimel signed onto the Texas lawsuit that challenges DAPA and DACA. He argues the programs would hurt the state.

"It will be expensive for Wisconsin, when suddenly we have many more people becoming eligible for many different types of state benefits, from BadgerCare to education and other things," Schimel says.

Another Wisconsin Republican opposes the programs, but not on the grounds that they would hurt the state. Congressman and House Speaker Paul Ryan insists the president’s action threatens the integrity of the Constitution. Ryan recently made his case on the House floor.

"Article I states that all legislative powers are vested in Congress. Article II states that the president shall 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.' That separation of powers could not be clearer," Ryan says.

Those may be among the oral arguments lawyers make on Monday before the Supreme Court.