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Montana governor bans ‘sanctuary cities’ for illegal immigrants

Migrants from Honduras march in a caravan. (Morena Perez Joachin/DPA/Zuma Press/TNS)
April 05, 2021

Montana’s Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed new legislation on Wednesday banning cities from providing legal sanctuary to illegal immigrants.

“We are a nation of laws, and immigration laws will be enforced in Montana,” Gianforte told The Associated Press in a statement last week. “Criminal, illegal aliens who pose public safety threats to our communities have no sanctuary in Montana.”

Under H.B. 200 passed on March 15, state and local police are required to comply with federal immigration law and Immigration and Customs officials to arrest and deport illegal immigrants. It also empowers Montana’s attorney general to take legal action against jurisdictions that don’t comply, including fines and withholding state funding.

A similar bill passed by the Montana legislation was vetoed by the states’ former Democrat governor Steve Bullock in 2019.

While there are currently no sanctuary cities in Montana, the preemptive move is another example GOP lawmakers pushing back against the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

In 2019, GOP Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed comparable legislation, saying, “This is about the rule of law. It’s also about public safety.”

Prior to leaving office, former President Donald Trump issued policy restricting federal funding for sanctuary cities until local officials agreed to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Biden administration has since rolled back Trump’s sanctuary city policy.

The new administration has also reportedly starting bussing illegal immigrants from border states to various locations throughout the U.S., including Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).  

“Tens of thousands of immigrants caught illegally crossing the border and then released under the new leniency policy of President Joe Biden are now dispersing to four corners of the United States on buses, with some of the more moneyed ones taking passenger jets,” the CIS report stated.

According to the report, the Department of Homeland Security provides the illegal immigrants with an “Order of Release on Recognizance,” a document granting them the legal right to be in the United States while they apply for asylum. The document requires the holder to report to a deportation officer in their new city by a certain date.

“They feel happy because they’re in the United States,” said Lorenzo Ortiz of the El Buen Samaritano Migrante church, who assists with organizing the daily bus trips from Del Rio. “They want to get as soon as possible to their destination. They’re all going to apply for asylum. They’re all good people.”

Customs and Border Patrol “anticipates more than 1 million encounters” with illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in FY 2021, according to Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Raul Ortiz.