Advocates for immigrants living in Wisconsin strongly criticized this morning’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in the case of State v. Salas Gayton. That decision upheld a sentence imposed on an immigrant that was far longer than sentences normally imposed for similar crimes.

“The court lengthened Mr. Salas Gayton’s sentence based in part on his status as a non-citizen,” stated Matthew Pinix, volunteer attorney for the ACLU of Wisconsin, who participated and argued in the case as a friend of the court along with Catholic Charities Legal Services for Immigrants, the National Immigrant Justice Center and the University of Wisconsin Law School Immigrant Justice Clinic. “We continue to believe that sentencing a defendant based on immigration status or national origin, rather than on any specific actions, is an Equal Protection violation.”

“Immigration is an exceedingly complex issue,” said Claudia Valenzuela, attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center. “There is no such thing in the law as ‘illegal immigrant status,’ making it improper and unfair for the court to rely on the term in imposing the sentence.”

“We also object to the trial court’s use of the prejudicial and dehumanizing term ‘illegal immigrant,’” added Karyn Rotker, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Wisconsin.

“Our justice system must treat equally the citizens and noncitizens that come before it,” concluded Stacy Taeuber, former director of the UW Immigrant Justice Clinic. “In this case, that did not happen.”