Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Licenses Committee Postponed Decision On Citizenship Requirement For Issuance Of Professional And Commercial Licenses Or Permits

Milwaukee (HNNUSA)- On Tuesday, the License Committee members unanimously decided to postponed a proposed ordinance (090411) that would require proof of U.S. citizenship and legal alien status to obtain a professional or commercial licenses or permits in the City of Milwaukee. The Common Council committee members are Aldermen(woman) James A. Bohl, Comm. Chair, Milele A. Coggs, Vice Chair, Ashanti Hamilton, T. Anthony Zielinski, and Nik Kovac.
The ordinance would have required new applicants and those applying for renewal to prove their legal status in the country.
Two executive directors from several community based organizations, and a South side resident testified in opposition of the measure. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights organization, said her organization did not learn of the proposal until Monday night. "This is very disturbing... Such an ordinance would reduce the tax base and increase poverty," Neumann-Ortiz said. She also criticized J.B. Van Hollen's decision to enforce the U.S. Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. In October 2007, Van Hollen wrote that federal requirements applied and that Secretary of Regulation and Licensing Celia Jackson should begin enforcing the measure, but was not mandatory to do so. Nevertheless, Jackson began enforcing the measure.

H. Nelson Goodson, an immigration rights advocate and a member of Taxpayers for Immigration Reform told the committee, a class action lawsuit is pending on appeal in a Pennsylvania federal court concerning a similar enforcement of the measure. The Lozano vs. City of Hazleton lost the first round when a judge ruled the anti-immigrant measure was unconstitutional. Hazleton city officials have appealed the case and a decision concerning the case is expected soon, according to Goodson. Goodson also advised the committee, that passing such an ordinance, the city could face a legal challenge costing taxpayers thousands of dollars when the city is facing a 90 million dollar deficit.
If the ordinance is imposed, the city would decrease business growth and eliminate a substantial amount of taxes and revenues generated from licenses and permits. The Common Council salaries come from these type of revenues, property taxes, and it wouldn't make sense for them to cut revenues by passing an ordinance limiting business growth. Especially, when Mayor Tom Barrett is proposing budget cuts from the Police Department, city services, and Fire Department. I don't see the Mayor and his staff or the Common Council proposing cuts to their own salaries, Goodson added.
"City Clerk Ron Leonhardt and Asst. City Attorney Bruce Schrimp who favor the citizenship ordinance have yet to produce a directive from Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General stating that the City of Milwaukee is in federal violation of the law or the city is facing punitive measures by cutting Block Grant funding from the federal government. The 1996 Act hasn't been enforced by the city for the last 13 years and I doubt the city would face any action from the federal government, if they decide to ignore enforcement of the Act. It's an immigration issue and it should be resolved at the federal level," Goodson said.
Tony Baez, president and CEO of the Council for the Spanish Speaking, questioned the city attorney's opinion, which cited the opinion from Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen concerning the 1996 Act.
"Why wait so long?" Baez asked the committee, and said the city hasn't enforced the 1996 Act for the last 13 years. Baez told the committee that time was needed to get other groups and advocates involved in this particular measure.

Leonhardt and Schrimp advised the committee that the city is expected to enforce the 1996 Act, but did not provide a recent decision by the current U.S. Attorney General that the measure is en-forcible.
Ald. Tony Zielinski asked for the proposed ordinance to be placed on hold to give various community groups, and constituents more time to review the proposal and to comment on it. The committee agreed and voted to postpone the measure.

Milw., WI: Legistar posted video online of Licenses Committee Sept. 29 hearing of citizenship ordinance 090411 requiring legal status in the country for issuance of professional or commercial licenses or permits, click on the following link and then on video http://bit.ly/YywZO

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