Whitewater Unified School District employee downplays immigration laws and threat of foreign drug cartels; works with attorney to help illegal immigrants bypass laws


Through an extensive public records request, Parents Defending Education obtained correspondence and emails from school staff showing how the crisis at the southern border has impacted the Whitewater Unified School District (WUSD).

The district’s bilingual liaison used school resources, including email and school hours, to plan and coordinate recurring immigration clinics in collaboration with a local lawyer and nonprofits. Topics of discussion ranged from planning and promoting free legal clinics for migrant families, downplaying the immigration laws of the United States, and disregarding the threat of foreign drug cartels potentially operating in the region.

In his email to an immigration attorney, the bilingual liaison requested the lawyer’s assistance in scheduling recurring “immigration clinics” every month or every other month. He referenced the “wave of new immigrants coming to our area in general for the last two years” and wanted to ensure they are “getting the right legal information in Spanish.” He is also performing outreach to find jobs for migrants in the community.

The district employee is also included in emails where individuals disparagingly comment on a newsletter from Rep. Bryan Steil (WI-01) where he highlights the threat of Mexican drug cartels operating in Wisconsin. The individuals described the representative’s comment as contributing to a “hostile climate” and expressed concern that calling attention to his potential public safety concern will be used for political messaging. In the emails, the individuals also critiqued a press conference held by local law enforcement and elected officials as “stoking fear and panic.” An additional exchange called for the individuals included on this email chain, including a school employee, to work together on the “journey” for “justice” for newcomers.

According to correspondence from Caroline Pate Hefty, WUSD’s superintendent, the school has received 181 migrant students since the 2021-2022 academic year. School email exchanges demonstrate that this influx has created difficulties for teachers and staff including drastically increased reading intervention needs, complexities placing students in corresponding grade levels, and the unpreparedness to handle the wide-ranging needs of some of these students. The school has tracked the multilingual students (ML) coming from households that speak nine different languages.

WUSD also budgeted $40,000 in resources to be used from an Immigrant Children and Youth grant.

WUSD staff were invited by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UWW) to participate in a “Community-Based Learning Breakfast” which was branded as an event focused on “Supporting the Local and Regional Latinx and Immigrant Communities.” According to the invitation, it was meant to bring together community organizations that are “collaborating to strategize on how best to support these new members of our communities.”