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Democratic challenger Tony Evers (left) and Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, shake hands before the start of their gubernatorial debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation Oct. 19, 2018, in Madison. (Associated Press) Democratic challenger Tony Evers (left) and Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, shake hands before the start of their gubernatorial debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation Oct. 19, 2018, in Madison. (Associated Press)

Democratic challenger Tony Evers (left) and Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, shake hands before the start of their gubernatorial debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation Oct. 19, 2018, in Madison. (Associated Press)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher November 2, 2018
Eric Litke
By Eric Litke November 2, 2018

Walker scores with 'illegal aliens' tuition and driver's licenses claim against Evers

In a TV ad launched days before the Nov. 6, 2018, election, Republican Gov. Scott Walker went after his Democratic opponent on immigration.

The spot — released Oct. 23 — dings Tony Evers on taxes before saying the longtime state schools superintendent "wants to give in-state tuition to illegal aliens … and driver’s licenses, too."

The ad includes clips of Evers taken from the Oct. 19, 2018, debate sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. They show Evers saying he would support legislation "that would allow DACA students … to have in-state tuition," and that he supports driver’s licenses "for undocumented folks."

Do those clips justify the ad’s summary that Evers supports tuition and licenses for "illegal aliens?"

Let’s take a closer look.

Defining the terms

The truth of this claim hinges on the definition of a few different immigration terms, notably "illegal alien." That’s the preferred verbiage by many on the right for undocumented immigrants.

Whatever the term, it refers to people who entered or reside in the country in violation of the law -- such as without visas or passports.

Our colleagues at PolitiFact Texas found the term "illegal alien" crops up a few times in federal law, mostly in section headings, but it is never officially defined.

Similar terms are used -- and defined -- by the federal government, however.

For instance, the IRS defines "undocumented alien" as one "who entered the United States illegally without the proper authorization and documents, or who entered the United States legally and has since violated the terms of his or her visa or overstayed the time limit."

Meanwhile, the tuition question focuses specifically on DACA, or Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals, a program that has been in the news since President Donald Trump’s administration took steps to end it a year ago. Federal courts have so far halted that effort.

Those protected under DACA are often referred to as "Dreamers."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security program launched DACA in 2012 under President Barack Obama to allow certain people who came to the country illegally as children to request a two-year deferral of immigration action. It also allows them to legally work.

DACA status, which is granted at the discretion of prosecutors, is open to people who:

  • Were under age 31 as of June 2012

  • Came to the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday

  • Have lived in the U.S. continually since at least June 2007

  • Were in the U.S. in June 2012 and had no lawful status then

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  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED or have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces

  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors

With that background, let’s look at the two parts of the claim in more detail.

Evers on in-state tuition

In the debate, Evers was asked whether DACA students should get in-state tuition.

Evers’ response: "I would propose or support legislation that would allow DACA students to be a part of, to have in-state tuition."

Former Gov. Jim Doyle signed a measure in 2009 allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities if they graduated from high school here, but Walker repealed that in 2011.

As noted, those with DACA status have met certain criteria to be recognized by the government and, as such, would not face immediate deportation. But DACA students by definition are those who are in this country without proper documentation, even if they were brought here by their parents as young children.

DACA allows the person to defer immigration action but "does not provide lawful status," according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

And that’s not a position unique to the present administration. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, under Obama, defined DACA immigrants as part of the group that should be counted as "unauthorized resident immigrant population."

Evers on driver’s licenses

This statement is pretty clear cut.

From Evers during the debate:

"Do I think that we should have permits, driver permits for undocumented folks that are working in the state of Wisconsin? The answer is yes. Undocumented folks are working hard at jobs all across the state of Wisconsin, paying taxes, paying Social Security. They should have the opportunity … to have permits."

Evers said an added benefit is that requiring a permit means undocumented residents "have to learn how to drive safely in Wisconsin."

Evers uses "undocumented" instead of the "illegal aliens" term the Walker ad invokes, but the terms are substantially similar in common usage.

Currently, someone in the country illegally cannot get a driver’s license in Wisconsin, though immigrants who have obtained the DACA designation can, said Davorin Odrcic, a Milwaukee immigration attorney.

Our rating

Walker claims in a TV ad that Evers supports granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for "illegal aliens."

Walker is clearly on point on the driver’s license issue.

As for in-state tuition for DACA students, Evers backs that, too. There is a wrinkle though, in that those with DACA status have met certain criteria to be recognized by the government and, as such, would not face immediate deportation.

That said, by definition they are not in the country legally. Their DACA status delays official action against them, but it doesn’t change the lack of legal status.

So the statement is accurate, but it requires some clarification and detail on DACA status. That’s our definition of Mostly True.

Our Sources

YouTube, Scott Walker TV ad, Oct. 23, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Scott Walker says Tony Evers wants to help 'illegals,' brings immigration into the governor's race," Oct. 23, 2018

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), accessed Oct. 29, 2018

Email exchange with Sam Lau, spokesman for Tony Evers campaign, Oct. 27-30

Phone interview with Davorin Odrcic, a Milwaukee immigration attorney, Oct. 30, 2018

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2014

IRS, Immigration Terms and Definitions Involving Aliens, accessed Oct. 30, 2018

C-Span, Wisconsin Gubernatorial Debate, Oct. 19, 2018

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Walker scores with 'illegal aliens' tuition and driver's licenses claim against Evers

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