Illegal Immigration at Forefront Locally

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

Immigration continues to be one of the most pressing issues in this country.

Locally it's come to the forefront as illegal immigrant Raul Ponce-Rohca faces charges in the death of Breanna Schneller, 18, of Wausau.

It's causing many to question why more isn't being done to enforce immigration laws.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, raiding restaurants and scanning small cities for illegals just isn't priority.

They prioritize by going after illegals who are involved in other crimes like gangs, drugs and violence.

So many slip through the cracks.

"The fact that we are diverse, that strengthens us, it makes us more accepting but also more available and global in our thinking," said Nell Anderson, director of education with the Wausau School District.

Anderson believes each student living in a school district has the right to education.

"In 1982 the Supreme Court ruling Plyler vs. Doe, specificially said that public schools were prohibited from denying immigrant students access to a public education," Anderson said.

That includes illegal immigrants. Schools can't even ask if a student is a U.S. citizen.

"We don't have a way of saying okay here's Susie Smith, are you legal or not...we don't have that information," she said.

In the Wausau School District, 1,700 of 8,500 students are learning the English language.

Some illegal immigrants qualify for government assistance. But they must be in good standing and still meet salary and asset requirements.

"The exceptions are they would have been here in good standing for five years, they would have had work history for basically those five years or they would be a Hmong refugee," said Vicki Tylka, director of Marathon County Social Services.

The qualifications for eligibility are made the state of Wisconsin and the federal government.

And in an emergency, like giving birth, an illegal immigrant could receive state medical coverage.


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