Dane County Task Force on Immigration
Sitting in Limbo
the social, cultural, religious and economic life of the city. I think that is a really powerful statement from a community where you are not
only recognizing the contributions made by the immigrant communities, but I think you also state that you value what those contributions
are. Then it followed from there, they made a number of other statements regarding the immigrant community. For example, they called for
a fair immigration system at the federal level.”
       What also caught the attention of the task force members was the testimony of people caught up in the issues who spoke before the
task force at three public hearings held last spring. “I think all of us — I’m speaking on behalf of the task force members — were very
impressed by the courage of the people who decided to come forward to speak at the public hearings,” Yudice said. “We know that they
were taking a risk. Many of them were clearly afraid and yet, on many occasions, the public hearings were packed with people who
many times work 2-3 jobs, but they came and even brought their children because they knew this was an important issue for them. They
wanted to make their voices heard. I think all of us were touched by the courage that we saw and people exhibited coming forward.”
The testimony helped the task force members better understand the issues involved and the people whom they impact. “I personally
really understood in a new way some of the issues facing immigrants on a daily level,” said Rabbi Renee Bauer, a task force member. “It
is a population that is often underground and we don’t hear from. Immigrants and those who work with immigrant communities spoke at
the hearing. The issue of not being able to have a driver’s license came up. The issue of living that underground life became much
clearer and I think changed a lot of us on the task force.”
       What became evident from the backgrounds of those who came to testify is that immigration issues aren’t a “Latino” problem. They
are a global issue.
       “While clearly the most visible immigrant community in Dane County is the Latino community, we also spoke with representatives
from the African community,” Yudice said. “We know there is a significant community made up of immigrants from other parts of the
world who are here in Madison and in the suburban areas including Sun Prairie and Oregon. Those communities are also impacted by
the same issues that the Latinos are, but they are much less visible. They are staying under the radar, sort of to speak. But it was
interesting to hear and to learn that when we speak of the immigrant community, we are really talking about a diverse group of members
from all throughout the world who live and work and go to school here in Dane County.”
       It also became clear that the immigrants are impacted by crime in two ways. While the immigrants have come to Dane County
primarily to better the lot of themselves and their families and are law-abiding, stereotypes and exaggerated media coverage have led
some to believe that immigrants are responsible for an uptick in crime when actually the opposite has happened in recent years. It also
makes them vulnerable and easy prey.
       “There is greater victimization among the immigrant communities simply because they are reluctant to report crimes to the police for
fear that they don’t know how the police are going to react or whether their immigration status is going to be questioned,” Yudice said.
“The result is that criminals know this and they understand that because they lack identification documents, many of them don’t use
traditional banks and financial institutions. What they do instead is do cash transactions. And many times, they are carrying cash, since
they don’t have bank accounts. Again, it makes for ready victims. So you have a terrible formula. People who maybe have more cash at
home, are carrying it on their person. With the fear of the police, the criminals know that even if they victimize them, they are not going to
report the incident to the police. So it really makes for a terrible situation in our community.”
       One of the recommendations that the task force made was for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office to change its policy of reporting non-
citizens to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they are booked into the county jail. “We believe it is counter-productive
and it creates great fear within the community and it makes people reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement,” Yudice said. “We want
just the opposite of that. We want the immigrant community to feel that they are being treated equally and are receiving the same
services. We want them to cooperate with law enforcement to provide information and to support law enforcement. That recommendation
is similar to the one that was made by the Dane County Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System. They published a
report in September 2009 and basically addressed the same issue.”
       While the task force finished its work in June, the county board has yet to accept its report or act on its recommendations.
According to Scott McDonell, the county board chair, the report and recommendations have been hung up in the clerk and counsel
offices over the issue of what Dane County government can and can’t direct the sheriff’s department what to do and the sheriff is
adamant about retaining his current policy. McDonell expects the county board to take up the report and its recommendations during the
next few months. He noted that the county board already dealt with the jail issue through the racial disparities report.
Until that time, the task force — and the immigrants — sit in limbo waiting for action to come.
Rabbi Renee Bauer (l) and Luis Yudice were
members of the Dane County Task Force on
Immigration.

By Jonathan Gramling

       In September 2009, Dane County established the Dane County Task Force on
Immigration, chaired by Luis Yudice, a former Madison police officer who is now in
charge of security at the Madison Metropolitan School District. Like many other
communities across the United States, Dane County was having a difficult time dealing
with the issues that immigration — both legal and illegal — pose for county residents and
county institutions.
       Over the course of nine months, the committee met and looked into what other
communities were doing with the issue. A resolution passed by the city of Ithaca, New
York caught the attention of the task force.
       “The city of Ithaca took a very progressive stance by coming out with the statement
that held the dignity of all city of Ithaca, regardless of immigration status, in equal status,”
Yudice said. “They recognized the importance of the contributions made by immigrants to