Police chief and city manager pen letter to Biden asking for funds to provide resources to 'rapid increase' of immigrants

WHITEWATER, WI - On December 28, 2023, Whitewater Police Chief Daniel Meyer and City Manager John Weidl sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking his administration for help in addressing the challenges their city is facing with the "rapid increase" of immigrants flooding the area.

The letter stated that the city has seen a "soaring" number of immigrants arriving from Nicaragua and Venezuela since early 2022. They wrote, "We estimate that there are roughly 800-1,000 individuals who have arrived here in that short time. Regardless of the individual situations [for coming to Whitewater], these people need resources like anyone else, and their arrival has put great strain on our existing resources."

Major challenges have been cited by the Whitewater Police Department (WPD), such as communicating with Spanish-speaking individuals, transportation, housing, and documentation/identification concerns. The letter states, "We have found approximately three times the number of unlicensed drivers on our roadways compared to previous years. Our officers have also seen first-hand the terrible living conditions that many migrants are living in."

According to the letter penned by Meyer and Weidl, migrant families are living in 10'x10' sheds in below 10-degree temperatures and cramming into apartments that are already over-occupied. WPD also links this issue to a "number of situations involving juvenile victims of sexual assault" as well as other serious crimes.

WPD said that their officers have also encountered a significant trust barrier between the immigrants and law enforcement. According to the letter, "In many cases this has led to individuals providing false documents and misleading our staff, which further increases our time involved in investigating cases."

They wrote, "None of this information is shared as a means of denigrating or vilifying this group of people. We know that challenges will come with the addition of any significant number of people to a city. In fact, we see great value in the increasing diversity that this group brings to our community. We simply need to ensure that we can continue to properly service this group and the entirety of the city of Whitewater."

Meyers and Weidl stated that their city is in "dire need" of additional resources. They stated that they need additional staffing, specifically in the police department, but also in the form of an immigrant liaison position. They wrote, "These positions are critical to ensure we are addressing the immediate needs of this new population."

They also said that the city needs resources to be able to fund programs "aimed at improving the quality of life of our immigrants." 

The letter gave credit to several non-profit organizations that have stepped in to help, but even those resources cannot be sustained without additional help. The letter said, "A number of non-profit organizations have taken great strides in providing this group with basic essentials like clothing and medical care. However, with additional funding, the city could begin to incentivize new initiatives such as ride-share programs, affordable housing opportunities, and language courses."

In closing they wrote, "The impact of demographic changes that we are seeing in Whitewater is acute. It is unique in Walworth County and even in the state of Wisconsin."

Whitewater, which is located in Walworth County, has a population of about 15,000 people. 
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