2008/11/18:Students demand an end to Sheriff's harassment of immigrants

UW students march for sheriff’s ouster

by Kevin Bargnes

Badger Herald
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 01:38


KATE BRENNER/Herald photo


Several University of Wisconsin student groups marched from Library Mall to the City County Building Monday to protest Dane County Sheriff’s policy of turning in illegal immigrants to the federal government Monday.

Sheriff Dave Mahoney has developed a policy of reporting all undocumented arrested to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, though no legislation requires him to do so.

The student chapter of Progressive Dane, Campus Antiwar Network and the Multicultural Student Coalition organized the protest along with the Immigrant Workers Union.

“So we have a supposed liberal (Mahoney) going above and beyond his authority to make the lives of our county’s most vulnerable citizens even harder,” Progressive Dane member Adam Porton said.

After making several speeches on Library Mall, the group of approximately 50 marched up State Street, blocking traffic and buses and using noisemakers.

The groups entered the City-County Building to tell the Dane County Board of Supervisors they support an amendment to move funding from Mahoney’s budget to a workers’ outreach program.

After some debate, the amendment failed by a vote of 30 to 6. Scott McDonnell, District 1, said while he agreed with the protesters, this was not the best way to tackle the issue.

“I think the vehicle for addressing this issue is for us to look back at our own policies and clarify them,” McDonnell said.

The amendment would have cut funding for five new positions in the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

Supervisor Al Matano, District 11, spoke out in favor of the amendment.

“Even if people’s immigration status is not 100 percent, it doesn’t mean they don’t have rights,” Matano said.

Protesters booed the result and left the room chanting, “We’ll be back.”

PD member Samir Jaber said Mahoney is “legislating by the badge” by reporting illegal immigrants to ICE.

“It causes a lot of immigrants to stop reporting things to the city for fear of being deported,” PD member Samir Jaber said. “We feel we have a moral obligation to stand by our immigrant community”

McDonnell echoed some of Jaber’s worries, saying Mahoney’s policy causes crimes to go underreported and mirrors some of the deportation-focused policy of President George W. Bush’s administration.

Several of the involved students also said they believed Mahoney’s actions were racist. CAN organizer Rob Lewis said calling somebody illegal is simply “an excuse to discriminate against them.”

“What’s going on is racist and inexcusable,” Lewis said. “They’re trying to intimidate a group of people in this community and take away their rights.”

As they marched up State Street, the students carried signs reading “Not One More Penny to the Sheriff” and “Deport Mahoney” while chanting “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police.”

Calls to Mahoney’s office seeking comment Monday afternoon were not returned as of press time.

—Becky Vevea contributed to this report.