The State of Montana, like many other states, is suddenly being forced to grapple with the harsh new immigration policies of President Trump. The Trump administration has, in its own words, “taken the shackles off” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and given them expansive and often unreviewed discretion to target people for detention and deportation.
Arturo Valerio-Gonzales has spent months in the Gallatin County Detention Facility as a result of an ICE “detainer.” A detainer is simply a request from a federal agent asking local law enforcement to hold a person for an additional 48 hours in order to facilitate possible deportation based on suspected immigration status. The detainer is unsupported by probable cause or neutral judicial review. There is no legal requirement that local officers respond to a detainer request. In fact, Arturo’s detainer is illegal under Montana law.
This week, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has filed documents with the Montana Supreme Court in support of Arturo’s illegal arrest. We expect that the DOJ will argue that President Trump can deputize local law enforcement to arrest and incarcerate suspected immigrants through ICE detainers.
Under this illegal and cynical immigration agenda, any person of color or non-English speaker in Montana is presumed to be guilty and deportable.
Using these detainers to carry out President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda debases American democratic values, destroying due process protections and the bedrock principle that an individual cannot be jailed without probable cause.
As organizations who are committed to upholding human dignity and the constitutional commitment that rights do not depend on skin color or language, we stand in support of immigrants and in firm opposition to our nation’s anti-immigrant policies that are playing out in our Montana communities. The voluntary use of ICE detainers feeds off our community resources and entangles Montanans in a deportation regime bent on dehumanizing immigrants.
Montana should stand for liberty and justice for all. This case is about protecting freedoms, upholding the rule of law, and rejecting legalized racism. Any attempt to take away those rights and participate in President Trump’s politically-motivated and anti-immigrant policies would be a step in the wrong direction for Montana.
Montana Association of Christians
Montana Association of Rabbis
The Montana Human Rights Network
The Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance
The Montana Racial Equity Project
Montana Women Vote
Planned Parenthood of Montana
Standing Alongside America's Muslims (SALAM)
Soft Landing Missoula
ACLU of Montana