DARLINGTON – A small crowd gathered at the Darlington High School auditorium on Wednesday night, April 26, to discuss immigration and how it has affected Darlington.
Chief Jason King gave a presentation not to change anyone’s mind, but to talk about the facts of immigration and how it relates to Darlington.
“I think the more people know, the better off we all are,” King stated.
King talked of several misconceptions that people may have of immigration and how immigrants, like those from Mexico can come into the U.S. The U.S. Congress has put a cap on how many Mexicans can enter the U.S. per year at 25,600. Close to 1.3 million are still on a waiting list to enter with their families. They are still processing family sponsored visa applications from 1993.
There are 11.1 million undocumented immigrants and half of those immigrants are from Mexico, which makes up about 1.75 percent of the population.
“When it is less than two percent of the population, I wouldn’t say that it is a major problem,” King commented on the facts.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12 percent of Darlington’s population is Hispanic. King and Officer Tony Ruesga feel that has risen to 20 percent. Ruesga guessed that seven percent of the immigrants in Darlington are undocumented. There are 80,000 undocumented immigrants in Wisconsin, which is about 1.3 percent of the states population.
One question that has been asked regularly is why Darlington? Why Wisconsin? It is because of jobs and agriculture. Lafayette County is an Agriculture centered county.
“If somehow they were able to deport them all, there would be a $60 billion economic impact in lost output in our farm industry and it would be catastrophic,” King added.
King also mentioned that since immigrants pay rent, they are paying property tax and not putting a drain on the economy. They are paying into social security but since they are not citizens, they are not getting any of that money back so it is a positive effect on social security.
The increase influx of immigrants in the U.S. has not been able to correlate to higher crime rates. Since 1990 the U.S. crime rate has been cut in half, even though the number of immigrants is at an all time high. Illegal immigrants are less likely to commit a crime than native people. King said the biggest problems are those driving without a license. In Wisconsin, you have to possess a social security number to get a license. Thirteen states have made a license only to be used for driving and not to be used to vote, get on an airplane or to obtain government benefits.
“This would make the streets safer and make cops jobs safer,” King explained.
When it comes to sanctuary cities, Darlington is not one and it will never become one. A sanctuary city are those communities that go out of their way to provide sanctuary to people that are here illegally. They will even impede the ability for the cops to deport someone and won’t work with the federal authorities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It makes sense to work with them for public safety. We need their help,” King stated.
The police department has set up community outreach programs that have helped them work with the Hispanic community in Darlington so they can work together.