The Racine City Council went on record Tuesday night in support of giving driver’s licenses to immigrants living here illegally and against yanking licenses as punishment for offenses completely unrelated to bad driving.
The vote was 11 to two. The two ‘nays’ were cast by Carrie Glenn and Steve Smetana. They had voted earlier in the evening to delay consideration in order to have additional discussion at a separate meeting.
The votes came after over 25 citizens spoke in favor of the advisory resolution meant to influence Gov. Evers as he prepares his budget.
During the council debate, Ald. Henry Perez, a Cuban immigrant, urged his colleagues to consider the big picture. "Our Hispanics and African-Americans aren't going anywhere," Perez said. "Let's empower them to be able to function in somewhat of a normal state without the fears that have been mentioned," he said.
Previous speakers said the inability to secure a driver's license because of income or status often times makes it difficult for people to support their families and care for their children.
"It makes sense to fine and remove a license because you're a bad driver," said Ald. John Tate. "It doesn't make sense to remove a license for something completely unrelated to driving and that's what often happens," he said.
Tuesday night's vote in support of issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants regardless of their legal status made Racine the first municipality in Wisconsin to recommend such a move, according to the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera. Last month the Racine School Board voted narrowly to approve a similar resolution.