Border state governor signs bill banning sanctuary cities - No, not that border

Montana Governor Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill banning sanctuary cities in the state. There aren’t any sanctuary cities in Montana but he wants to be proactive. He sends a message that “We are a nation of laws, and immigration laws will be enforced in Montana.”

That is clear enough. At a time when a majority of Americans give Joe Biden a failing mark for his handling of the illegal migrant crisis at the southern border, the only subject in which his approval ratings are underwater, it is understandable that a new governor would want to get out in front of a hot button issue. Gianforte, a Republican, began serving as governor this year and he is determined to keep Montana sanctuary city-free. His predecessor, Democrat Steve Bullock who ran for president and then ran for the U.S. Senate, losing both bids, wouldn’t sign such legislation. Bullock vetoed a similar measure in 2019.

The bill will require state and local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration law. The state’s attorney general can pursue civil action against jurisdictions that do not comply — including fines and withholding state grant funds. As with most issues, sanctuary cities show a divide in opinions. Supporters of the Montana legislation say that sanctuary cities in other parts of the country have led to increased criminal activities. The sanctuary city ban would prevent those problems. Opponents of the bill say this fosters distrust of law enforcement, especially in communities of color.

As a point of reference, a report published by the American Immigration Council in 2020 states that “Montana has a small but growing community of immigrants, many of whom emigrated from Canada and Mexico. While only 2 percent of Montana’s population was born in another country, foreign-born residents help support Montana’s economy across sectors. Immigrants make up a vital, educated share of the state’s labor force, with a third holding a college or higher degree.”

Montana’s population is comprised of 2% of immigrants, while about 4% of residents are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent. There isn’t much of a problem with illegal immigration in the state. Almost three out of five immigrants in Montana are naturalized U.S. citizens. Most pursue education at or above the college level. This is all very different than the illegal immigration found at the southern border.

13,568 immigrants (58 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 4,621 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.

Nearly all (96 percent) immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

We don’t normally think of the Canadian border when we think of illegal immigration. Interestingly enough, illegal immigration from Canada increased by 91% in 2019 to border states.

More than 960 people crossed into the U.S. illegally from the northern border with Canada last year, according to data released from Customs and Border Protection.

While that number is a tiny fraction compared to the migration across the border with Mexico, it represented a 91 percent increase from the prior fiscal year, the data showed.

Some smuggling agencies were “exploiting the fact that there’s an easier way to make it legally into Canada and then that provides some clientele to then be smuggled into the U.S.,” he said.

Ross said he had encountered instances of immigrants lured to Canada with the promise of employment. Once they arrive and there are no jobs, they become “ready-made clientele” for smugglers who charge them thousands more dollars.

That’s small potatoes compared to the big numbers we are seeing at the southern border now. The increase reported in 2019 happened largely in east coast states like Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.

Montana officials are concerned that illegal immigrants from the surge on the southern border will be relocated to the state. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials stated there are “no plans” to send illegal immigrants to northern states such as North Dakota and Montana. Montana’s attorney general is skeptical.

But Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said he’s still concerned about the prospect of that occurring.

“We got word, and this was a leaked email that came from inside of DHS and CBP. So we know somebody at the top is talking about this,” he told Fox News. “But it reached us. Obviously, the governor and I … reached out. We sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, and you just read their response. But it’s that word ‘currently’ that really concerns us, and, you know, frankly, I think we could see this here in Montana.

“Where are we going to put these people? We don’t have camps. We don’t have large hotels, empty, just sitting around. We’re not able to handle an influx of several hundred or thousand people, just as a matter of logistics. I don’t know where we’re going to put these people and process them and make sure they’re not just released into the interior.

“Because that’s the real concern here.”

That’s a legitimate concern for any state but certainly for a rural state like Montana. In a state like Texas where illegal immigration is an ongoing problem, there is a real scramble going on to provide shelter and provisions for the flood of those crossing the border now. Other states, especially those so far north, are not accustomed to handling such problems. It’s good that Governor Gianforte is acting proactively.