Enough is enough: Montana governor signs bill banning “sanctuary cities” in his state

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HELENA, MT – In late March, the governor a Montana signed into law a bill that would effectively ban sanctuary cities throughout the state, via compelling local law enforcement agencies to cooperate and abide by federal immigration law and authorities when appropriate.

On March 31st, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed into law a bill aimed at combatting the likes of formal, or informal, adoptions of sanctuary cities or municipalities within Montana.

As noted within the law, local law enforcement agencies will face various penalties if they refuse to comply or abide with federal immigration law where applicable in their duties.

Said law would grant the attorney general authority to bring forth civil action against law enforcement agencies that attempt to curb this new law.

Those who wind up violating the new law could have grants withheld to their agency and could also face fines of up to “$10,000 for every five days that the agency or local government is not in compliance with the provisions.”

When speaking about this new bill, Governor Gianforte stated the following:

“We are a nation of laws, and immigration laws will be enforced in Montana. Criminal, illegal aliens who pose public safety threats to our communities have no sanctuary in Montana.”

Various states throughout the country have adopted practices that are quite the opposite from what the governor of Montana has brought into the fold with respect to his state.

There are currently 11 states within the country that either have cities, counties or the entire state serving as a de facto shield for individuals illegally present in the country.

Modern iterations of sanctuary cities accomplish this effort of shielding criminal aliens by instilling laws or policies that forbid their law enforcement agencies from cooperating with the likes of immigration officials.

Thus, Governor Gianforte’s signing of this law serves as a rather refreshing counteraction to other states and cities that have endorsed or enacted the opposite practice.

The bill wasn’t without some level of pushback by some within the state. 

Back in January, the Montana House Judiciary Committee held a hearing where advocates and naysayers of the then-proposed legislation could provide testimony regarding their thoughts on the bill. 

Rev. Laura Jean Allen, senior minister at First Christian Church, pulled up the proverbial race card when decrying the bill:

“As a white woman, I have been conditioned throughout my lifetime that police have my best interest in mind and can be trusted. When I am pulled over, my greatest fear is that I will be ticketed, not that I will be hurt, killed or deported.”

However, Committee Chair Rep. Barry Usher cut Allen’s testimony short, noting that race and illegal immigrants are separate matters and that the committee wasn’t going to entertain the conflation: 

“We’re not going down the rabbit hole of racism because there are immigrants from all over the world that are every color on earth and we’re not doing racism in this hearing.”

Rabbi Lauri Franklin, who spoke on behalf of the Montana Association of Rabbis, attempted the same ploy as Allen, stating:

“It sustains and promotes a philosophy of othering, of fear and hatred of those who don’t look like the so-called white majority or don’t attend the same houses of worship.”

Once again, it was pointed out – then by bill sponsor Rep. Kenneth Holmlund – that there’s zero reason for anyone not breaking the law and lawfully present to worry about with this bill:

“This bill does not have anything to do with people being arrested without cause. If they had not already broken the law, they would not be subject to what is in this bill.”

Back in March, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report detailing the issues that come with sanctuary cities that effectively shield criminals from being deported promptly. 

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Such is the case with a convicted sex offender who was able to avoid deportation for over five years due to utilizing the likes of sanctuary states like Washington and Oregon. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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WASHINGTON – Thanks to sanctuary state laws in Washington and Oregon, an illegal immigrant convicted of multiple sex crimes has only recently been deported to Mexico, after remaining in the U.S. since at least 2015.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Juan Manuel Enriquez-Martinez, 40, was convicted of sex offenses in both Oregon and Washington.

ICE states in a recent report:

“Juan Manuel Enriquez-Martinez, 40, was convicted June 23, 2015 in the Wasco County Circuit Court of Oregon of attempting to commit sexual penetration and for attempting to commit sexual abuse in the first degree for which respective sentences of 56 months and 14 months confinement were imposed.”

Furthermore, Enriquez-Martinez was also convicted January 19, 2016 in the Klickitat County Superior Court for the State of Washington for:

“child molestation in the first degree for which a sentence of 68 months of confinement was imposed.”

Oregon’s sanctuary state status has been in place since 1987.  Under Oregon law, local law enforcement authorities are limited in their ability to cooperate with immigration authorities, and cannot apprehend a suspect based on illegal immigration status alone.

Washington became a sanctuary state by law in 2019.  

Along with prohibiting local law enforcement from asking about immigration status unless it directly relates to a case, Washington law also prohibits jails and prisons from notifying federal authorities about the impending release of an illegal immigrant criminal. 

Furthermore, according to Oregon Live, Washington law does not permit jails and prisons to comply with immigration holds requested by federal authorities. 

ICE‘s Enforcement and Removal Operations became aware of Enriquez-Martinez after he was convicted, and ICE was fortunately able to place an immigration detainer on Enriquez-Martinez in the state of Oregon on March 1, 2016.

The agency explains in its report:

“ICE lodges immigration detainers on individuals like Enriquez-Martinez who have been arrested on local criminal charges and who are suspected of being removable, so that ICE can take custody of that person when he or she is released from local custody.”

Five years later, on February 22, 2021, custody of Enriquez-Martinez was finally transferred to ICE, and on March 10, 2021 an immigration judge ordered Enriquez-Martinez deported to Mexico, where he was placed in the custody of Mexican officials.

Deportation was a long time coming for Enriquez-Martinez in the sanctuary states of Washington and Oregon, which limit ICE involvement in matters concerning criminal illegal aliens, but ICE was at least finally able to commit to its “public safety mission” by keeping the convicted sex offender from being released into the local community.

Unfortunately, in Joe Biden’s America, deportations have actually plummeted lately, and communities in this country have been forced to receive criminal illegal aliens after their release from jail or prison.

According to guidance issued February 18, 2021 in response to Biden’s executive actions, a “noncitizen” is prioritized for removal by ICE only if they have been deemed a “threat to public safety” – a matter of judgement based on “extensiveness, seriousness, and recency of the criminal activity” – and if they have been convicted of an aggravated felony.

This means that deportation is not a priority if an illegal immigrant is charged with, but not yet convicted of, crimes such as murder or rape.

Additional cumbersome procedures have also been added if an illegal alien’s criminal activities do not warrant priority status.

If ICE agents attempt to arrest an illegal alien who is not a prioritized, convicted, aggravated felon, or suspected gang member or terrorist, field offices must, in the case of each illegal alien, “coordinate their operations and obtain preapproval for enforcement and removal actions.”

According to Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies, Biden’s sanctuary country policies “will prevent the arrest and removal of nearly all of ICE’s caseload of criminals — including many aliens who have been convicted of the most serious crimes on the books.”

Reviewing statistics from 2018, Vaughn also notes that only 3.5 percent of aliens removed that year by ICE would be removed now under Biden’s policy.  This is not, she adds, “because these aliens are harmless or sympathetic cases.”  

Rather, she writes, it is “because under the new rules only a very narrow set of cases of aliens can be deported.”

Breitbart sheds light further on these 2018 statistics, noting:

“In 2018, nearly 70,000 illegal aliens were deported by ICE who had charges against them — including 10,300 charged with drunk driving, 4,700 charged with traffic violations, 4,700 charged with assault, more than 2,000 charged with drug trafficking, nearly 2,000 charged with burglary, 1,800 charged with domestic violence, 1,500 charged with sexual assault, nearly 800 charged with homicide, and more than 500 charged with lewd acts with a minor. 

“The Biden order would have prevented all of these illegal aliens from being deported.”

Previous felony convictions may not even matter in the prioritization of deporting illegal aliens.  

Vaughn notes that one ICE officer pointed out to her that if a convicted felon, who was previously deported and returned illegally, committed a crime that does not fall under the aggravated felony umbrella, “we can’t touch him.”

Illegal alien releases under Biden’s sanctuary country policies have already proved potentially dangerous to local communities, such that some state attorneys are suing the Biden administration.

As we previously reported, Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed suit, noting that illegal aliens convicted of “burglary, cocaine trafficking, grand theft auto, heroin trafficking, credit card fraud, money laundering” have been or are being released into Florida’s communities due to Biden’s policies.

Mark Branovich, Attorney General of Arizona, and Austin Knudsen, Attorney General of Montana, are likewise suing.

They noted concerns over illegal alien release that has already occurred in the border state of Arizona, and they reported specific concerns that Biden’s policy will “exacerbate the serious drug trafficking problems associated with illegal immigration that have afflicted communities across [Montana].”

Sanctuary policies, already in place in several states such as Washington and Oregon, cause significant delays in deportation of criminal illegal aliens.  

Thanks to Joe Biden, such policies have also set up local communities nationwide for significant risk by permitting release of criminals, while forestalling their deportation in the first place.

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