Yesterday, we learned that Attorney General Austin Knudsen decided to use the Office’s time and resources to join an Arizona lawsuit to stop new guidance from DHS that would redirect where and how the agency pursues deportation.

At the same time, we learned that our Attorney General Knudsen and Governor Gianforte quietly signed our state onto an agreement committing our state to enforce federal detainers that the MT Supreme Court already ruled illegal in 2020, to sharing Montanans’ personal information, and leaving our state, cities and towns liable for all of it. This agreement was signed with no input from the public, the Legislature, or the localities that would have to carry out and be held liable for such enforcement.

Not only is this agreement legally questionable, it’s bad public policy made in the wrong way. Process aside, this agreement embodies the same fear-based decision-making that we’re seeing in anti-immigrant legislation like House Bill 200 and House Bill 223.

House Bill 223 in particular would compel local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration detainer requests. These detainer requests have misidentified over 3,200 U.S. citizens for arrest since 2002 alone. When these requests are in error, cities and towns are held liable. In fact, this clandestine agreement explicitly states in Section VII that our state, cities and towns would be liable for any lawsuit and payments arising from that enforcement.

This agreement, this lawsuit, and legislation like House Bill 223 trample on local control, undermine public safety, and leave our localities holding the bill for baseless political stunts.
We need our elected leaders to step back from these efforts to target our immigrant neighbors and step up by making sure we’re spending our time and resources on efforts that really make Montana a safer, more prosperous place.

Caitlin Borgmann, Executive Director ACLU of Montana
Kelsen Young, Executive Director MT Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence
Mary Poole, Executive Director Soft Landing Missoula
Travis McAdam, Co-Director Montana Human Rights Network
Randall Caudle, Immigration Attorney River Mountain Immigration
Diane Magone, Co-Director Treasure State Values
Keaton Sunchild, Political Director Western Native Voice