March 18, 2009

Racine student activists seek license, tuition fairness

Horlick Social Studies teacher Al Levie, right, and Paul Lara,
a junior at Park HS, spoke during a rally at the State Capitol Wednesday

By John Heckenlively
For RacinePost

Over 100 Racine high school students and several dozen adult supporters piled into buses Wednesday morning to deliver a message to legislators in Madison.

Their demands: Remove unfair restrictions on tuition and drivers licenses that discriminate against undocumented workers in Wisconsin. Most of the students were members of Students United for Immigrant Rights, a group founded at Horlick High School in 2005.

For students, the high cost of college is even more difficult when faced with having to pay out-of-state rates, even though many have spent their entire lives in Wisconsin. Students are asking legislators to change tuition regulations so that children of undocumented residents can pay in-state tuition rates if they have been residents of Wisconsin at least three years and graduate (or receive a GED) from a Wisconsin school. They argue that if they live, study, work and pay taxes in Wisconsin they should be treated like other Wisconsin citizens.

Maria Morales of Voces de la Frontera, left, and Rafael Coronado, Horlick sophomore, in State Assembly chamber

The driver’s license restrictions are a result of the REAL ID Act sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, which requires states to verify citizenship status to issue drivers licenses and other state identification. Hispanic activists are asking the state to issue "driver certificates" which cannot be used for federal purposes, but are valid for driving and obtaining auto insurance. Their basic argument is that the roads are safer when the state certifies drivers (regardless of what the document is called) and when drivers can obtain insurance.

Students began by marching through the Capitol Building chanting "What do we want? Licenses. When do we want them? Now." Signs urged "Education, not discrimination."

At a rally in the state Assembly Chamber, several hundred activists from Milwaukee, Racine, Whitewater and several other cities heard a variety of speakers. Al Levie, Social Studies teacher at Horlick High School, noted that this was the fourth year he has been in Madison -- but nevertheless was optimistic about both issues.

Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, has indicated he will introduce an amendment to the budget on the drivers license issue. Rep. Pedro Colon, D-Milwaukee, spoke to the crowd and said an amendment on tuition is all being introduced. Sen. Mark Miller, D-Madison, and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, have indicated they support both amendments. Activists are optimistic that after several years of fighting, the legislature will finally support them.

After their brief demonstration and rally in the Capitol, the group returned to Racine by way of Marty’s Pizza in Delafield.


  1. "They argue that if they live, study, work and pay taxes in Wisconsin they should be treated like other Wisconsin citizens." But they skip the most important step: actual citizenship. If I pretend I'm a police officer, can I walk around with a gun on my belt? How many times does it have to be said - illegal IS illegal.

  2. Gadsden Purchase3/19/2009 9:17 AM

    I hope this was done during school hours and the teachers got paid and the Unified taxpayers picked up the bus costs. That way they can be learning at it.

  3. Take away those kids' cell phones, ipods, cars, lunch money, allowances and give them to their illegal counterparts just because it's not "fair" that some people have them and others don't. Is it "fair" to sneak into a country in the middle of the night and then demand rights?

    The most growing up here has to be done by the adults who are brainwashing these kids.

  4. One good thing bout Obama scwering the econamey up so badly is even the illegals can't find jobs, nor the excuse "well they only doing the jobs no one else" will work.

    I agree with 8:54 Illegal is illegal.

  5. Amen, 8:54.

    If you want to have equal treatment, but without the responsibility, then you belong elsewhere.

  6. In two words - "Law Abiding" Adn you cannot get to pick and choose which laws you might like to abide.

  7. Once again your bias comes shining through.

    They are not "undocumented workers," they are illegal aliens.