No so-called “sanctuary cities” actually exist in Montana, but Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed a bill purporting to ban them in the state anyway. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock had vetoed such legislation in 2019, calling it “a solution searching for a problem.” But when you have no solutions to actual problems, the Republican playbook is to just blame an immigrant.
“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,” the Associated Press (AP) reported. But that’s not only faulty thinking, it’s also flat-out untrue.
“Cities that have adopted ‘sanctuary’ policies did not record an increase in crime as a result of their decision to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to a new Stanford University report,” The Washington Post reported last year. That study came after years of lies from the previous administration that claimed safer city policies endangered communities. That administration also attempted to unlawfully strip funds from localities that had passed such measures.
“There’s no evidence sanctuary policies harm public safety, and there’s no evidence those policies increase crime,” researcher David K. Hausman said according to the Post.
The AP reported that Montana’s new law “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.” In his veto statement, Bullock warned that police holding detained immigrants past their release date for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to pick up is both unlawful and could expose localities to severe civil liabilities. Really severe.
Last October, Los Angeles County agreed to pay $14 million to settle a 2012 class action lawsuit brought forward by immigrants who had initially been detained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office but were then unlawfully held for federal immigration agents to pick up later. It was the largest such settlement ever reached, The Washington Post reported at the time. “The holds, also called ‘immigration detainers,’ forced individuals to be held in county jails after they were legally entitled to be released,” National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) said in a release received by Daily Kos.
Seems like Bullock had the right idea there. But when you have no ideas period, you go the Gianforte route, I guess. He hasn’t been the only one either. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the previous president’s second of many lying press secretaries, launched her gubernatorial campaign with a pledge to also ban so-called sanctuary cities. But, like in Montana, none exist in Arkansas either. “New election cycle, same old xenophobic dog-whistling campaign,” tweeted Zach Mueller of immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice. “Lies told for power and profit, lies to divide and distract, lies that will hurt ALL Arkansans. But likely just a foreshadow of a GOP who learns no lessons and takes no responsibility.”
NIJC said in a report last year that “a growing body of social science research shows that communities with immigrant populations are safe, vibrant, and full communities. Sociologists have long found that immigrants bring an inter-connectedness to communities that correlate to lower crime rates.”
“Simply put, more immigrants means safer communities—for everyone,” NIJC continued. “In fact, many studies have found that crime actually decreases in cities with large immigrant populations. Social scientists even have a term for it: the ‘immigrant revitalization perspective.’”