Posted on February 28, 2024

How the Border Crisis Hit a Small Wisconsin Town

Joseph Simonson, Washington Free Beacon, February 27, 2024

The migrants began to trickle into Whitewater, a sleepy town of 15,000 an hour west of Milwaukee, toward the end of 2021.

Prior to their arrival, local news and political debates generally revolved around school fundraisers or the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s D3 athletics. Today, residents are focused on their 1,000 new neighbors, who mostly hail from Nicaragua and Venezuela and largely keep to the shadows because they lack official identification. Locals say the real number of migrants in the town could easily be double the number reflected in the police department’s official statistics.

As the migrant crises in big cities like Chicago and New York receive national media attention, Whitewater residents can only laugh.

Greater Whitewater Committee president Jeffrey Knight is quick to point out that migrants have caused New York’s population to grow by 2 percent, while Whitewater’s population has grown by almost 10 percent in two years, almost entirely due to the southern border crisis. That would translate into more than 1.5 million new arrivals in New York.


Like Knight, all Whitewater residents who spoke to the Free Beacon prided themselves on their hospitality and did not express prejudice toward the town’s growing foreign population. But those who live here say they feel the strain migration has placed on their town: schools rushing to hire English as a second language (ESL) teachers, emergency services overwhelmed with unintelligible calls reporting domestic violence, and health providers faced with a flurry of uninsured patients.

Responding to the influx of migrants has put the town in a $400,000 budget hole, a town official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Free Beacon.


No one knows what brought the migrants to Whitewater. It is not a sanctuary city, and no red-state governor is shipping busloads of migrants to Whitewater’s doorstep. That Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that will likely decide the next president is just happenstance.

Some residents think the migrants were attracted by the progressive city council’s pro-immigrant rhetoric. Others think the sleepy midwestern town is just a good place for illegal migrants to hide.

Whatever brought them, Whitewater’s migrant population and its subsequent demographic transformation could offer a glimpse into the next stage of America’s immigration saga. As lawmakers fight about what to do with the southern border, the rate of illegal border crossings shows no sign of slowing. With roughly 8.5 million illegal border crossings recorded since President Joe Biden took office, it is almost inevitable that more towns like Whitewater will see migrants flocking their way.

Once the migrants arrive, it is on the town to adapt. The hiring of new ESL teachers for Whitewater Public Schools has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars alone, one city official told the Free Beacon. Some students, the official said, have enrolled in Whitewater schools without knowing more than a few English words and phrases.

An official familiar with the issue says that at least 300 English ESL students are now enrolled in Whitewater Public Schools. That official also expressed concern about internal school reports of migrant students suffering from sexual abuse at home, as some live with distant relatives.

“You’re setting up a disastrous situation,” the individual said. “There’s been an uptick in STDs and other sexual health issues.”

But no other issue is as contentious as the town’s growth in police responses. Two internal Whitewater Police Department slide shows obtained by the Free Beacon describe considerable strain on local law enforcement, with officers responding to calls that sound like something out of a police procedural.

In March, one slide states, law enforcement responded to a “deceased infant … located in a cardboard box.” Another individual familiar with the immigration situation described finding a woman living in a shed with her infant during the Wisconsin winter.


Neighboring counties have expressed concern about cartel activity among Whitewater’s migrants. One slide describes the surge in fentanyl seizures in recent years.

“All states are now affected, just like southern border States,” the slide reads. {snip}

Law enforcement officials said last November that they had traced nearly $250,000 worth of funds back to drug cartels in just four months. In the words of one law enforcement official, the migrants perform “farm or factory labor during the day and cocaine sales at night.”