Wisconsin lawmakers pitch state-based immigration fixes for workers, students

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The Center Square) – Wisconsin lawmakers say they cannot fix the nation’s immigration policy, but they can make it easier for Dreamers to work and learn in the state.

A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Monday introduced a handful of pieces of legislation that would change the state’s professional licensing laws and tweak the University of Wisconsin’s admission.

“I think everyone knows that the federal immigration policy is broken, and we can’t do anything about that. But these DACA recipients, this we can do something about,” Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, said. “This is really low-hanging fruit. This is just so obvious. These are individuals that came here as kids, they have worked here all their lives, they’ve gone to school here, they’ve paid taxes and they stayed out of trouble. They have proven their value to our society.”

The first piece of legislation would allow DACA recipients to get professional licenses in the state.

“Under current law we are now graduating nurses teachers, engineers and plumbers who then cannot actually work here in the state of Wisconsin because they’re unable to be licensed here and have to go elsewhere to actually get their license and work,” Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview, said. “Wisconsin licenses hundreds of professionals from barbers to plumbers to nurses, none of which a DACA recipient can legally become here in the state.”

The second piece of legislation would allow DACA recipients to get in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin schools.

There’s also a plan for a tax break.

“The last piece of legislation will provide a non-refundable tax credit of $250, every two years, to offset that $500 the federal government is charging them,” Macco said.

DACA recipients, Macco explained, are charged a $500 fee to process their paperwork to stay enrolled in the DACA program.

Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, D-Milwaukee, said the plans are not about immigration.

“This workforce package looks to unlock some challenges presented to those wanting to work in our state,” Ortiz-Velez said.

Macco said there are about 5,800 DACA recipients in Wisconsin, and their numbers are not growing. He said their average age is about 27, which makes them prime age to fill some of the available jobs.

“Wisconsin is facing a workforce shortage and a decline in enrollment across our universities. We hear calls every day from stakeholders that they cannot find qualified candidates to fill the jobs that they need, that they need to function,” Macco said. “DACA recipients are here. What is the state of Wisconsin going to do about it?”

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