The Trump administration’s immigration policies are flooding into our Montana communities. Across the state, immigrants and U.S. citizens are being treated violently and inhumanely to satisfy the White House’s racist and nationalistic agenda.
Montanans believe that every person deserves to be treated humanely, fairly and with dignity. We expect our elected officials to protect and advance these values. It is also their job to spend tax dollars wisely. But our elected leaders’ actions — and inactions — have not reflected these values.
The ACLU of Montana recently demanded that Gov. Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, and Rep. Greg Gianforte stand between the federal government’s harsh policies and Montana communities. The ACLU of Montana’s letters document a pattern of egregious actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Patrol, and state and local law enforcement agencies. They include multiple instances of state and local officials and agencies voluntarily deploying Montana resources to help enforce the Trump administration’s nationalistic agenda.
ICE and CBP, in cooperation with Montana law enforcement, are profiling and harassing Montana residents, including American citizens, simply because they are not white or dare to speak Spanish in public. Ana Suda and Mimi Hernandez experienced this when a CBP agent pulled the two U.S. citizens, mothers, and Havre residents out of a grocery store line in their town after hearing them converse in Spanish. The agent interrogated them at length in the parking lot, as if they were criminals.
Similarly, a Montana state trooper demanded – for no discernable, legitimate reason – identification from the ACLU of Montana’s own staff member and U.S. citizen, Zuri Moreno, the passenger in a car that was pulled over for a traffic violation.
The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant fervor is senselessly tearing Montana families apart and threatening Montanans’ physical safety. Seven Montana children were robbed of their father, Audemio Orozco-Ramirez, after ICE deported him this spring for speaking out about the rape he endured while in ICE custody. Audemio had been a Montana resident for 20 years. Six of his children are U.S. citizens and one has valid immigration status.
Our elected officials have the power as well as the responsibility to speak up, protect Montanans, and use our tax dollars wisely. Bullock and Fox can each refuse to devote precious local resources to helping federal immigration agencies hunt out suspected immigrants. Bullock must sign an executive order that bars Montana resources from being used to separate or detain immigrant families and direct his Department of Labor and Industry to exercise its legal prerogative to stop providing employment records to ICE. Fox must aggressively investigate incidents of racial profiling and direct the highway patrol to stop cooperating with ICE.
Daines, Tester and Gianforte must strongly oppose funneling money to Trump’s egregious enforcement policies and demand accountability for ICE and border patrol abuses. Resisting the anti-immigrant agenda is not only the humane thing to do, it is fiscally responsible.
Detaining immigrants is far more costly than proven case management approaches, under which immigrants voluntarily report for court and deportation. The Family Case Management program canceled by the Trump Administration had a 99 percent success rate and cost almost 90 percent less than detaining families. Detaining an immigrant family costs over $300 per day, but case managing a family until their immigration hearings or deportation proceedings costs only $39 per day. Our elected officials are throwing taxpayer dollars out the window to toe Trump’s immigration policy line.
A dozen other Montana organizations joined the ACLU of Montana’s demands for accountability from our state’s most powerful elected officials. Unfortunately, not a single one of those officials has responded to these demands with a promise to use their power and authority to protect Montanans from abuse and racism and to use our local resources more productively.
It is time for Montana’s elected officials to lead. Without bold action, conditions for people living and working in Montana will only get worse.