House bill prohibits sanctuary cities in Montana

Rep. Nate McConnell spoke out against the bill.

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed House Bill 611, which would prohibit sanctuary cities in Montana. It will now move to the full House for debate.

A sanctuary city is a city that allows undocumented citizens avoiding deportation. The bill passed on party lines.

The committee is voting on bills to get ahead of the the second transmittal deadline of the Legislature, which is when bills need to pass one chamber in order to move on.

Democratic Rep. Virginia Court voted against the bill and motioned, unsuccessfully, to table it  during debate.

“I think that this is not a message of hope, it’s a very negative message that we’re sending,” Court said.

Democratic Rep. Nate McConnell also opposed the bill and read a message written on the Statue of Liberty during testimony.

“I think it’s a betrayal of that principle that Montana has always been ahead of,” McConnell said.

Republican Rep. Barry Usher supported the bill and said the message on the iconic statute refers to the people that came to this country legally.

“This has nothing to do with legal, vetted people,” Usher said. “This has to do with cities, counties creating sanctuary cities where they’re not going to comply with federal immigration laws.”

Usher said when he signed up for the U.S. military, he was willing to risk his life for legal citizens of the country.

“We do a lot of preventative laws in this body,” Usher said. “This is a preventative law – this is to say, ‘don’t come here if you’re illegal.’ And I’m OK with that,” Usher said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.