WISDOM and JONAH Drive Calls to Key Districts

By Ken Hood

Last Monday, WISDOM’s Immigration Task Force, and members from the regional affiliates, met for a lively night of action over Zoom. We met for a virtual “Call Party” and took action on reinstating driver’s licenses to immigrants and low-income people in WI.

If you don’t know the issue, here is a brief summary. In 2005, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation issued a memo stating that individuals must provide proof of legal presence in the United States to obtain a driver’s license. This restricted undocumented immigrants from obtaining licenses, as they did not have legal status. It also made it harder for some legal residents to obtain a license since showing this level of proof. Imagine being a low-income person trying to obtain a driver’s license but not being able to transport yourself to the social security office that is 30 miles away, then pay a fee, then wait additional time, just to prove that you were born here.

Our plan of action was simple: we wanted to multiply the number of voices sending messages to our state legislators concerning this issue. A new bill was recently proposed to fix this issue and it needs bipartisan support to pass. WISDOM’s Digital Organizer, Amanda Ali, got to work collaborating with the statewide Immigration Task Force. The task force identified three key districts to target: two members in the State Senate and one member in the Assembly. Amanda created three separate phone banks to target WISDOM members and close contacts in these districts. Myself, Amanda, and volunteers worked together to formulate a phone script that would encourage our members to take action by following a short link to an online form where they could easily send a pre-written (or customized) letter to their Assembly Representative and their State Senator (if you haven’t seen it yet, the portal is still up at http://bit.ly/driverlicenses …please contact your elected officials through this link!).

The volunteers who participated in making dials all had a positive experience. After I led a brief training on the tech and script we did an hour of calls together. It was a supportive space as we shared encouragement and helpful tips through the group video and text chat. Linda said “I knew every single person I talked to. It was really fun.” Nancy had several stories to share: “I got two really positive ones…Her friend’s granddaughter interns in Jesse James’ office for the summer.” Nancy spoke with an immigrant who said they would share the call to action link with friends. Grass-roots organizing taking off! We contacted 23 WISDOM members, nearly all of whom took action by filling out the online form.

We know that every adult who can pass the driving exam deserves a license. It will keep our Wisconsin roads safer by ensuring that drivers know the rules of the road. It will help people of all income levels and across the state get to the hospital, to jobs, or to school. Even though there is racist opposition to this idea, we know it’s the right thing for our immigrant neighbors and for our state as a whole.

If you want to help us make progress on this issue, please reach out to JONAH’s Immigration Task Force or email Lynn Buske. We’d love to have your voice at the next event.

(selfie of Ken Hood on his headset during a Zoom meeting)