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Gianforte signs bill banning sanctuary cities in Montana

Gianforte signs bill banning sanctuary cities in Montana

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HELENA — Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Wednesday banning sanctuary cities in the state, despite the fact that Montana does not currently have any sanctuary cities.

"We are a nation of laws, and immigration laws will be enforced in Montana," Gianforte said in a statement after signing the bill into law.

The bill will require state and local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration law and empower the state's attorney general to pursue civil action against jurisdictions that do not comply — including fines and withholding state grant funds.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed total U.S. deaths last year beyond 3.3 million, the nation’s highest-ever annual death toll, the government reported Wednesday. The coronavirus caused approximately 375,000 deaths, and was the third leading cause of death in 2020, after heart disease and cancer. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now top 550,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Supporters of the measure have said that sanctuary cities in other parts of the country have led to increased criminal activity, and that the Montana ban is necessary to preempt such problems. Opponents have said the measure will foster distrust of law enforcement at a time of greater tension between police and communities of color.

Gianforte's decision to sign the bill comes after former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a similar measure in 2019.


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