It appears my letters on HB 200 are popular enough that I’m now getting fan mail at home. Instead of including them in his original letter Paul Nachmen sent me an unasked for packet of all his talking points. I don’t particularly want to address all of what was contained in said letter as most of it falls under the category of anecdotal evidence, whataboutism, and other things I don’t care that much about. Stories of undocumented immigrants committing crime, while sad, don’t change the facts that undocumented immigrants commit less crime than native born citizens and that in the past 30+ years as immigration has increased violent crime has gone down. Immigrants do not bring crime. Now Mr. Nachman, as demonstrated by the packet he sent me, claims that I’m wrong and that “criminal illegal aliens” are committing a crime just by being here. Unfortunately, again Mr. Nachman is not correct. Immigration violations are a matter of civil, not criminal law. They only become a matter of criminal law under specific conditions such as in the event of re-entry after previous removal. No local lawmakers in the state are trying to protect those specific cases so there is no need to compel them to do otherwise.
HB 200 and its much worse sibling HB 223 use the same collection of anecdotal evidence and the false promise of safety Mr. Nachman enclosed in the packet he sent me in order to classify a group as illegal and criminal when our current system of civil law does not allow that. In fact, if the State Supreme court’s recent ruling on Ramon V. Short (2020) is anything to be followed, these two bills are unlikely to pass constitutional muster. For example HB 223 would essentially deputize Montana law enforcement to act as immigration officers and compel them and local officials to comply with federal civil immigration detainers when, according to Chief Justice McGrath, “They (federal immigration detainers) do not require the authorization of a judge, and, accordingly, they do not amount to a criminal arrest warrant or criminal detainer under Montana law.”
The Chief Justice also mentions in his opinion how the federal government compelling local officials to comply with federal detainers is a clear breach of the Tenth Amendment of the US constitution. Now I will grant that as the state legislature is the one seeking to compel local lawmakers to comply with federal detainers; the Tenth amendment is irrelevant to this argument, but if the federal government dictating a state to comply with it’s detainers is considered wrong, it should be considered equally wrong for the state legislature to dictate to our local lawmakers and law enforcement in the same manner.
However, beyond the question of constitutionality, I have a much deeper problem with how supporters of HB 200 and HB 223 talk about “illegal aliens.” Illegal is an adjective we should use to describe actions committed by people; it should not be used to describe the people themselves. One of my personal favorite authors Ellie Weisel put it best:
“You, who are so-called illegal aliens, must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?”
I suppose what I find most disturbing about the packet Mr. Nachman sent me is that even with all the anecdotal evidence and dog whistling his testimony contains; he was given the opportunity to provide uninterrupted testimony on this bill while faith leaders like Rabbi Franklin and Reverend Allen were silenced. The testimony of these faith leaders was dismissed while testimony wrongfully criminalizing immigrants was deemed relevant when we have data and legal precedent that clearly argues the contrary. In fact if Mr. Usher is interested in an argument on crime we can see that while most violent crime has gone down the exception to that rule is hate crime, specifically against recently arrived religious and ethnic minorities.
Bills like HB 200 and HB 223 don’t make anyone safer, in fact they actively embolden discrimination and make people less safe. Instead of looking at how Rep. Usher, Rep. Holmund, and this bill's other supporters can protect us from immigrants. We should be asking how we can protect immigrants from them.
P.S. Please don’t send me any more mail.