- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Latest on a rally at the Wisconsin Capitol by Latinos and immigrants against a pair of bills they say are divisive (all times local):

12:10 a.m.

Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly say the crowds of protesters in and around the Capitol show that the actions Republicans have taken against immigrants are significant.

Rep. Gary Hebl, a Sun Prairie Democrat, implored Republicans to look into protesters’ eyes and realize they’re people just like them.

A crowd estimated by police in the thousands has gathered to protest against a pair of Republican bills. One would block cities from keeping police officers from asking a person’s immigration status. The other would keep cities and counties from issuing local IDs.


11:45 a.m.

A pair of teenagers from Beloit are among the estimated thousands of people rallying at the Capitol in Madison over legislation seen as aimed at immigrants.

They’re upset by a pair of Republican bills. One would block cities from keeping police officers from asking a person’s immigration status. The other would keep cities and counties from issuing local IDs.

Isaac Flores and Catalina Servin arrived at Thursday’s rally on a bus. They said they had the support of administrators at Beloit Memorial High School to attend.

The 16-year-old Flores carried a sign that said “Wisconsin no es Arizona,” a reference to the southwestern state’s own struggles with the immigration issue. He said his family is of Mexican heritage and he doesn’t think it’s right to pass such laws.

Another protester, 33-year-old Juan Gonzalez, says he was born and raised in Madison but his parents are from Mexico. He said the bill about police asking immigration status is “messed up.”


11:30 a.m.

Police in Madison estimate that a protest at the state Capitol by Latinos and immigrant groups has drawn a crowd in the thousands.

Police spokesman Joel DeSpain gave the estimate.

The protesters were calling it “A day without Latinos and immigrants in Wisconsin.” They are upset by a pair of Republican bills. One forbids cities from blocking police from asking a person about their immigration status. Another blocks municipalities from issuing local IDs.

Roads leading to the Capitol were heavy with traffic and Mexican flags dotted the crowd. Inside the Capitol, hundreds of people packed the rotunda and surrounding floors as the Assembly session began, banging on cymbals and chanting “si se puede,” or “yes we can.”


11:10 a.m.

Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature are defending bills that have prompted a large demonstration at the Capitol by Latinos and immigrant groups.

Rep. John Spiros is a Marshfield Republican who authored a so-called sanctuary cities bill. It would bar local governments from prohibiting police from asking a person about their immigration status or working with federal immigration authorities.

Spiros says Latinos are not being told the truth about the bill. He says it doesn’t mean police can pull people over to check their immigration status. He says that can be done only if they are arrested.

Protesters have also criticized a GOP bill that would block towns and counties from issuing IDs. They say it’s anti-immigrant and aimed at a recent Milwaukee city and county plan to help get local IDs to people who have had trouble getting other government-issued IDs.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says anyone can get a free state ID card and so there’s no need for municipalities to issue their own.


10:30 a.m.

Hundreds of Latinos and immigrants from around the state are demonstrating outside the Capitol in Madison against state legislation they say is divisive.

The demonstrators are chanting and holding signs on the square outside the Capitol Thursday morning where temperatures are below freezing. One sign reads “All We Want is Equity.”

The groups oppose an Assembly bill that they say would lead police to investigate a person’s immigration status and detain people for deportation. They say a proposed Senate bill would block counties from issuing local identification cards to people who don’t have access to a state ID.

The Wisconsin Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and other organizations expect factories, dairy farms, fast food restaurants and hotels will be impacted because the workers are off the job during the demonstration.

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