Three high profile Wisconsin mayors are part of a New York City government-backed group dedicated to supporting President Barack Obama’s immigration reform agenda. The immigration initiative sponsored by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and staffed with city employees, resembles former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In Wisconsin, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and Racine Mayor John Dickert are members of de Blasio’s Cities United for Immigration Action, or CUIA.
CUIA serves as a platform for mayors and local officials to raise public awareness of the Obama Administration’s efforts to use executive action to deal with immigration policy. According to hundreds of pages of records released by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s office, the group also helps member mayors prepare press statements, hosts national events, and organizes legal and lobbying action that mayors can use city resources to support.
Declaring, “We stand for welcoming and inclusive cities that prosper, and the president’s action on immigration will help,” on their stand alone website – citiesforaction.us – the group also maintains a presence on the official NYC government website under the heading of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. E-mails obtained as part of the Soglin records request reveal staff for CUIA using both Gmail and NYC.gov e-mail accounts.
According to domain records, the actual registered owner of citiesforaction.us is Mario Moreno of the National Immigration Forum, an immigration activist group that has Jeb Bush Jr., the son of current GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, on its board. Interestingly, The New York Times reported in September that the National Immigration Forum has left the CUIA coalition.
CUIA is an ardent supporter of President Obama’s executive action to selectively normalize some in the country illegally. After the 2014 election, two programs were implemented or expanded that made it possible for children and parents to avoid deportation. States, led by Texas, pushed back in federal court. CUIA filed a brief in support of the Obama Administration.
Formally joining the brief were the cities of Madison and Racine, along a number of other cities whose mayors are members of CUIA. Milwaukee Mayor Barrett was listed as someone who supported the brief but couldn’t formally join the suit according to a CUIA press release. The same release, posted to the City of New York’s website, quoted Madison’s Soglin praising the Obama administration’s actions as “fair, economically beneficial for everyone, and the right thing to do.”
Before Soglin approved joining the CUIA brief, he had Madison City Attorney Michael May review it.
In July, Soglin and his city office worked with CUIA to craft a public statement in support of their work. Also in July, Soglin was approached by Peter Rickman, a liberal activist who was working with Voces de la Frontera, as Rickman sought to increase awareness about CUIA’s brief. The statement Soglin crafted for CUIA eventually read:
“On behalf of the people of Madison, and nearly 100 other cities across the country, we are united in support of implementing immigration relief through executive action. While there is little support for this pointless lawsuit, there is widespread support across the nation for reform.”
Soglin almost joined CUIA’s efforts in support of nearly unrestricted Syrian refugee migration to the United States, but stopped short when he was told that the statement he would have to endorse couldn’t be adjusted to include a request for federal housing help for cities who accept refugees.
Under de Blasio, the City of New York has created so-called immigrant ID cards, identification for homeless, indigent, immigrants and others who cannot receive state ID cards in New York. Since Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett joined CUIA, both the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County have decided to launch and fund an ID card program for immigrants and others in Milwaukee who can’t get state ID cards.
Although CUIA has so far focused on policies and public statements, Soglin told The New York Times in September that he hopes CUIA – a group that uses public funds in New York City and has mayors using public resources across the country – will “maximize turnout in the appropriate places where there are specific primaries and then, finally, the November election.”
It remains to be seen whether or not CUIA will engage in any sort of voter turnout efforts. An open records request with the Mayor of Milwaukee is still pending for records related to his relationship with the group.
Full City of Madison records request: Ragland Sikma CUIA
CUIA website: Cities United for Immigration Action