Edgar Mendez

Burke Supports Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Residents

Measure rejected by legislature would have particular benefit for Hispanics in Milwaukee.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Oct 24th, 2014 10:04 am
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Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said all Wisconsin residents deserve a fair shot at driving legally. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said all Wisconsin residents deserve a fair shot at driving legally. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

During a brief stop on the campaign trail, gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke announced support for legislation aimed at allowing undocumented residents to get a driver’s card and drive legally at a meeting hosted by the Southside Organizing Committee (SOC). An overflow crowd of more than 500 people attended.

“This is common sense,” Burke said. “It’s good for our economy and good for our workforce.”

After taking several jabs at Gov. Scott Walker, Burke said her plan is to give all Wisconsin residents “a fair shot.”

“That means being able to get a driver’s card so you can get to and from work,” she added.

The forum, held at American Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave., was intended to address three concerns of South Side residents: availability of housing resources, crime and driver’s cards for undocumented workers, stated Steve Fendt, executive director of SOC.

“We need our cars because the jobs are not on the South Side; they’re out there,” said Fendt, referring to the suburbs.

No one from Walker’s camp showed up, although he was invited to the event, organizers said. Democrats including Sen. Tim Carpenter, State Rep. Mandela Barnes and Mayor Tom Barrett addressed the crowd.

Also in attendance was State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, who introduced legislation last year related to driver’s cards for undocumented residents.

An overflow crowd of more than 500 South Side residents packed American Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave., to hear the legislators respond to their concerns. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

An overflow crowd of more than 500 South Side residents packed American Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave., to hear the legislators respond to their concerns. (Photo by Edgar Mendez)

The bill, rejected during the last legislative session, would have allowed undocumented drivers to apply for a REAL ID non-compliant driver’s license after fulfilling requirements determined by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT).

The ID cards would have served as licenses for those unable to obtain or renew traditional driver’s licenses due to lack of proper documentation such as a Social Security card.

Zamarripa pledged to continue to push for legislation aimed at providing driver’s cards for undocumented residents. It was not clear whether she intends to reintroduce the legislation tied to REAL IDs.

During the past three months, SOC volunteers collected more than 8,000 signatures requesting a driver’s card program that would allow undocumented workers to drive legally and obtain licenses. Those signatures will be delivered to both candidates for governor, organizers said.

Fendt claimed that since 2007, more than 65,000 Wisconsin residents, most of whom live on the South Side, had lost the ability to renew or obtain a driver’s license.

Jonathon Zuniga, a UWM student, said his mother and uncle are among them.

“My mom’s been here 22 years, working and paying taxes. My uncle has been here 24 years and bought a house which he pays property taxes on, but they can’t renew their license,” an animated Zuniga told the crowd.

While Burke and others pledged their support for a driver’s card and other initiatives, Ulises Sepulveda stood at the back of the jam-packed room, arms crossed and shaking his head.

“I’m not impressed,” he said, referring to the pledges of support from legislators. Regarding Burke’s comments, Sepulveda said, “Where was all this action for Latinos when she was working with Doyle?” Burke served as Commerce Secretary in Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration.

Still, he said he hopes driver’s cards become available to all workers. Other attendees also walked away hopeful that change would come.

Lupita Aguila, who attended the event with her 2-year-old son, Galileo, said she believed Burke and other legislators could make the plan to provide driver’s cards a reality.

“Latinos will be the majority in this state one day, and our representatives need to come through for us,” said Aguila in Spanish.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

16 thoughts on “Burke Supports Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Residents”

  1. Allison says:

    Of course she does, she wants their votes, even though she never did anything for them when she worked for Doyle. I’d be skeptical, too.

    Tomorrow she’ll be someplace else, promising free stuff somewhere else.

  2. PMD says:

    Heavens to Betsy a politician pandering for votes! What’s next? You’ll tell me something else totally crazy like Scott Walker bashing voters in Madison to generate strong GOP turnout. Like that could ever happen.

  3. Allison says:

    Calm down, PMD. I never said both sides don’t do it. All I’m saying is Mary Burke is promising free IDs to illegal aliens to earn votes. And voters are skeptical because she never did anything for Latinos when she worked for Doyle. That is all I’m saying. Relax.

  4. PMD says:

    I’m perfectly calm. You seem awfully defensive though. Is Latino outreach a big part of the Commerce Secretary’s role?

  5. Allison says:

    She might not have done anything directly for the hispanic community but Trek shop in Waterloo has a significant hispanic workforce. I don’t have any number just anecdotally from the amount of quincaneras a friends group would play out there.

    I think the real benefit of granting licenses is that it might finally better track people regardless of the status.

  6. PMD says:

    I also don’t think voters are thinking much about what exactly Burke did for the Hispanic community while she was part of Doyle’s administration. I don’t think that is going to cross people’s minds as they cast their ballot.

  7. PMD says:

    Though some Walker programs are popular in the Hispanic community, namely School Choice. Which Burke would end

  8. PMD says:

    Hey find another name. Already a PMD here. This PMD, the Real PMD, isn’t down with school choice.

  9. Tim says:

    It’ll be interesting when the first ‘school choice’ building opens that teaches & enforces sharia law.

  10. Andy says:

    Oh good, people who are here illegally can get a drivers license so they can legally drive to the job they illegally have.

  11. PMD says:

    I agree Andy. They are working hard, and trying to make a good life for themselves and/or their family.

  12. PMD says:

    But I do agree they are breaking the law

  13. PMD says:

    I always use punctuation. Nice try fake PMD.

  14. Tim says:

    That’s pretty tacky for someone to try to steal your moniker PMD. At least you’re here to straighten it out, they’re making themselves look like WCD with the petty tactics.

  15. Jess says:

    Pardon my ignorance here, but when this Jonathon Zuniga person says in the article that his mother and uncle have been paying taxes for decades but can’t get a license, how is that possible? Doesn’t working and paying taxes on your home imply that they are legal citizens, who are eligible for a driver’s license?

  16. PMD says:

    • Undocumented immigrants currently contribute significantly to state and local taxes, collectively paying an estimated $10.6 billion in 2010 with contributions ranging from less than $2 million in Montana to more than $2.2 billion in California. This means these families are likely paying about 6.4 percent on average of their income in state and local taxes.

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