Thursday evening, the Marathon County Board of Supervisors will discuss a proposed resolution that asks Congressional delegates to adopt a national immigration policy which creates a path to legal status for undocumented workers already living here.
According to the resolution, the county's Diversity Affairs Commission has determined the national immigration policy threatens Marathon County's public health, public safety, child welfare and workforce needs.
Though we don't know how many illegal immigrants live in Marathon County, we do know the population is growing.
The board's resolution notes that they play a significant role as workers in the agriculture business.
"It's difficult to see how we could just remove those folks and have something that operates well," said County Board Supervisor Jim Rosenberg, who represents the first district.
Rosenberg says because the undocumented workers also contribute to the local economy, there should be a way for them to keep working here legally, without being exploited.
"We're talking about hundreds of people," Rosenberg said. "They're consumers, they do commerce and so they certainly provide something in our county's economy."
But Rev. Oliver Burrows, who represents the 19th district, says the board's proposed resolution represents de facto amnesty.
"These people need to be held accountable for coming here illegally before we just simply say, stay here, compete for our jobs," Burrows said.
Burrows plans to draft an amendment that he says is consistent with the law and tells our leaders that illegal immigrants should be dealt with according to the rule of law.
He's worried about the message the current proposal sends to national leaders.
"The bottom line is we can't send a message to Washington or anywhere else saying we wanna welcome you, an illegal, you as illegal workers and employers to be here without consequence."
But Rosenberg believes it's helpful for federal legislators to have an idea of where they're coming from on the issue.
"I think its important for people to look at issues of justice even if they fall into the realm of other branches of government," Rosenberg said.
The public is invited to attend tonight's county board meeting and share their thoughts on the county's role in immigration reform. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is at NTC.
No vote is expected tonight, except for the possibility of amending the resolution or tabling it.
If it is approved down the line, copies of the resolution will be sent to President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Ron Kind, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, and U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy.
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