The GOP author of a bill at the heart of the "A Day without Latinos and Immigrants" protest outside the Capitol this morning said those people are misinformed about the legislation.
Rep. John Spiros, speaking prior to the floor period today, said his bill dealing with "sanctuary cities" is not designed to punish people who are in the country illegally. As he talked in Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' office, cheering, drums and speeches in Spanish could be heard from just outside the window.
"Bottom line is," Spiros, R-Marshfield, said, "what they're being told is not the truth."
The protest drew thousands of people to the State Street entrance to the Capitol, and hundreds more circled the building in a parade. As the Assembly gaveled in, the protests continued loudly outside, prompting one Dem to ask Vos, R-Rochester, if the people outside the building would be allowed into the Assembly gallery, which was mostly empty.
Vos said the typical rules of the Assembly apply, meaning no signs or cellphone use.
Prior to the floor period, Vos backed Spiros' comments about the "sanctuary cities" legislation and another bill that would limit and regulate the creation and use of local photo IDs. The protest also targeted that bill.
Vos blamed "Democratic activists" for capitalizing on the situation and distorting the facts of the bills.
"The goal of the legislation is to make sure the people who commit crimes are punished," Vos said of the "sanctuary cities" bill. He later added, "Luckily, we have the facts on our side."
That legislation would let local governments allow law enforcement to ask people about their immigration status once they've been charged with a crime. "Sanctuary cities" prohibit such questions.
The bill passed the Assembly on Tuesday with an amendment that changed the wording to "charged with a crime" from "arrested or detained." That, Spiros said, makes clear his bill is not targeting people who do not commit crimes or who receive traffic violations.
Dems today took credit for amendments to the bill, saying they successfully lobbied Spiros to change the bill. Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa said the bill's changes could let law enforcement in her district of Milwaukee continue working with immigrant communities.
Still, the Dem said, the bill is anti-immigrant and likely to clear the Senate.
"Unfortunately, I see it passing that house," she said, adding the protests are crucial to send a clear message to Gov. Scott Walker.