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Author: Wisconsin Watch

How providing a driver’s license pathway for undocumented residents makes streets safer

Wisconsin, which once provided a driver’s license pathway for residents who entered the country illegally, now leaves them with few safe options. “Antonio’s” daily commute to work could end with his family being torn apart. Antonio, not his real name, is among Wisconsin’s estimated 70,000 residents who lack permanent legal status. None of them is eligible for a driver’s license. It means they face legal risks — even the possibility of detention and deportation — whenever they take the wheel. That stirs anxiety extending to family, like Antonio’s daughter. “Once she sees the police, she freezes,” said Antonio, who...

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Nonprofits face challenges in making transportation accessible to aging Wisconsinites with disabilities

On an unseasonably warm October morning in northeastern Wisconsin, Steve Maricque crisscrosses Brown County in a gray minivan. Orange-red foliage draws the gaze of passengers as overnight rain gives way to clear skies. A smart tablet guides Maricque along his route. A dispatcher occasionally radios in a request for another pickup, which he adds to his queue when there’s time. “This first guy had heart surgery, and he’s doing rehab,” Maricque said as he runs through his passenger manifest. Gregarious and outgoing, Maricque enjoys getting to know passengers. All are elderly or have a medical issue that prevents them...

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Stalled Funding: Wisconsin explores regional services as fix for struggling emergency mental health system

When Chrissy Barnard faced a mental health crisis and most needed care, law enforcement handcuffed her, placed her in the back of a patrol car and drove her five hours to Wisconsin’s only state-run mental health facility for the general public. Barnard remembers the patrol car’s cold seats. She would eventually have her shoes confiscated, presumably so she couldn’t hang herself with the laces. The 330 miles between Barnard’s hometown of Superior, Wisconsin and Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh made it difficult for her loved ones to comfort her in person. Barnard — who was diagnosed with bipolar...

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The Queer family farm: LGBTQ farmers find fertile ground in Wisconsin despite social obstacles

Shannon and Eve Mingalone avow that their farmers market booth is “very gay.” They hang strings of pride flags and sell rainbow stickers to help pay for gender-affirming care, like hormone replacement therapy, for Eve. Sometimes, when parents and their teenagers pass the booth, the adults glance, then speed ahead. The kids pause for a second look. Shannon, 34, hopes it means something for them to see LGBTQ professionals out and succeeding. People often share stories. The middle-aged woman who confided that her daughter is transgender. The teen who stood in the middle of the Mingalones’ booth and said,...

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An ugly enforcement: Wisconsin’s fetal protection law allows detention of pregnant women for alcohol use

Officials investigate about 400 pregnant people a year for alleged ‘unborn child abuse’ under Act 292. Critics say that can do more harm than good. Tamara Loertscher arrived at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on Aug. 1, 2014 despondent. The 29-year-old had suffered depression all her life, but in recent months, her mental health grew especially desperate. She struggled to eat and get out of bed, thinking of harming herself. Severe hypothyroidism fueled her anguish. Untreated, it causes debilitating depression and fatigue. Loertscher had required daily medication since radiation treatment killed her thyroid. But she...

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Retaining a Constitutional Right: Thousands of eligible Wisconsin voters face ballot barriers in jail

Within a few years of returning from two traumatic combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, David Carlson lost his voting rights. He spent about four years in prison on felony charges that in Wisconsin result in disenfranchisement. What Carlson did not realize is that while he sat in jail prior to his conviction, he could have cast a ballot. Only, he says, no one told him he was still eligible. While tens of thousands of Wisconsinites are legally barred from voting because of felony convictions, thousands more eligible voters in local jails face persistent barriers to casting a ballot....

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