- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s Senate elections committee backed a bill Wednesday that would hinder efforts in Milwaukee to provide local photo IDs to the homeless and immigrants in the country illegally.

The Republican bill would prohibit towns and counties from issuing IDs or spending money on them. It would also prohibit using ID cards issued by cities or villages to vote or obtain public benefits like food stamps. It passed 3-2 along party lines, clearing the way for a full Senate vote.

The bill’s sponsors say it is meant to prevent fraud and confusion. Critics call it anti-immigrant and say it’s aimed at a recent Milwaukee city and county plan to issue local IDs to those who have difficulty obtaining other government-issued IDs. The IDs would assist with everyday tasks, like opening a bank account or obtaining a prescription.

“It was a victory hard-fought,” Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, said earlier in the day at a news conference opposing the legislation. “It was a small victory for us as we continue to fight for drivers cards for undocumented immigrants here at the state level. This was going to be a first step to finally realizing that.”

Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said he thinks it’s a great bill because it would ensure that the state is in control of programs administered by state agencies.

The bill would create exceptions allowing towns and counties to issue IDs to their employees or contractors and for use of transit systems, services and facilities owned by the town or county.

“This is not about punishing immigrants and putting people into the shadows,” said bill sponsor Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine. “Immigration is a federal issue, it’s not a state issue and it’s not a local issue.”

Dozens of immigrants attended the committee meeting Wednesday afternoon, most packed into the hallway outside the hearing room.

Earlier in the day, Wisconsin resident Guadalupe Romero said in Spanish that a local ID can be very helpful, especially for things like obtaining prescriptions. Romero said that a relative injured his spine and had surgery but couldn’t obtain the pain medicine he needed without an ID.

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, pointed to previous testimony from immigrants and said Republicans were ignoring the many benefits of local IDs in their zeal to make it more difficult for people to register to vote.

“It was heart-wrenching testimony we heard about how important this ID has proven for folks who testified about its importance,” Miller said.

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