Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers: Illegal Immigrants Are Still 'Wisconsinites'

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers
Wisconsin governor Tony Evers / Getty Images
September 22, 2022

Wisconsin’s Democratic governor Tony Evers said he considers illegal immigrants to be "Wisconsinites" just as much as lawful residents, according to newly unearthed video from 2019.

During a speech to the Voces de la Frontera’s Migration is Beautiful Masquerade Gala in 2019, Evers said he does not differentiate between illegal immigrants and lawful residents of Wisconsin.

"No matter your immigration status, if you call Wisconsin home, you’re a Wisconsinite," Evers told the group.

Evers’s previously unreported comments give broader insight into his positions on immigration and are likely to draw scrutiny as a national debate heats up over border security issues. Evers, who is facing a tight reelection race against Republican challenger Tim Michels, led an effort to provide drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants three years ago. He also in 2017 supported sanctuary cities in Wisconsin.

The governor said this was the primary reason he supported drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, in addition to keeping "roads safer" and creating "opportunities for families."

"We need to make sure that everybody has the opportunity, in this state, to get a drivers’ license to go from Point A to Point B," he said at the 2019 gala.

Evers did not respond to a request for comment.

Evers’s drivers’ license proposal was blocked by the state’s Republican-run legislature in 2019. But it wasn’t the first left-leaning immigration policy he proposed. In an interview with CBS 58 News Milwaukee in 2017, Evers said he "absolutely" supports the creation of sanctuary cities in Wisconsin.

"Are you then open to standing with a mayor or a group of county supervisors who want to establish sanctuary status?" asked a CBS 58 reporter.

"Absolutely," responded Evers. "Because those illegal workers, I see the children of those illegal workers when I come to the Milwaukee area, and the fear in their hearts and their eyes. It’s just extraordinary. Why should we use a political platform from Washington, D.C., that Donald Trump wants to instigate for no apparent reason?"

The governor's race is ranked as a toss-up by election analysts, with Evers holding a small lead within the margin of error, according to the latest poll released by Emerson College this week.

A spokesman for Michels criticized Evers's immigration policies for contributing to rising crime in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

"Tony Evers pulled Wisconsin's National Guard troops away from the border, so it's no surprise that he wants Wisconsin to be a safe haven for illegal immigrants. Illicit fentanyl is destroying families, crime is on the rise, and Evers and Joe Biden are making it even worse," said Chris Walker, an adviser to the Michels campaign.

Immigration is turning into a major election issue ahead of the midterms, as overwhelmed border states—flooded with tens of thousands of migrants each week—have started transporting some asylum seekers to Democratic-run sanctuary cities. Evers’s opponent, Michels, held a joint rally on Sunday with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has been dominating headlines after sending a plane of 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

"This border is now an issue in these elections," DeSantis said at the rally. "Because all these Democrats support everything Biden’s done. They support sanctuary jurisdictions, sanctuary states, benefits, they support the whole nine yards."