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Bill Sponsored by Christine Kaufmann Welcomes Immigrants and Promotes Integration in Montana Communities

After all the anti-immigrant bills being proposed by Montana legislators this year, Christine Kaufmann’s SD413 is a welcome change.  Senator Kaufmann is to be applauded for sponsoring a bill that would send a clear message that Montana welcomes immigrants to its borders, and will not be consumed by the “nativist” hatred sweeping many parts of the country.

Senator Kaufmann’s bill would have three important effects:  

(1) it would create an advisory council is to advise and inform public entities and officials of effective and efficient approaches to promote the integration of immigrants into the state and its communities;

(2) it would prohibit the word “illegal” from being used by a state agency or official in any official document of the state to modify the word “alien” because the term is inaccurate and pejorative; and

(3) it would provide that employees of local and state agencies, law enforcement officers, and all public officials shall, when carrying out their duties, take steps to recognize and protect the human rights of immigrants, prevent disparate treatment, and deter racial profiling.

This bill would be an important first step in curbing the growing level of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.  This bill is based on recognition of several fundamental facts, many of which are too often ignored in our immigration debate:  

That immigrants have made economic, social, and intellectual contributions to enrich our community, and that integration and broader civic participation by immigrant communities is an important and mutually beneficial goal.  Too often, people look upon immigrants as an invading force that steal our jobs and dilute our culture.  This bill recognizes that immigrants have played an important role in Montana’s history, and that our society is better off as a result.  The vitality of our country depends upon the import of new perspectives and ideas.  Many of our greatest achievements in the United States were made possible by immigrants.  

That the state has an interest in supporting and encouraging immigrants to obtain legal immigration status and, if they choose, citizenship.  We are a nation of immigrants, despite the fact that “nativist” groups would like to close the door behind them.   The growth of our economy depends upon immigrants, who open new businesses, create jobs, and provide much needed service and labor.

That immigrants are often driven to the United States without documented status due to social, political, and economic conditions beyond their control.  For people who live in many countries, escape to the United States isn’t a choice.  It’s a necessity.  I have represented many immigrants who fled from their home countries to escape persecution on account of their race, religion, and political beliefs.  These clients literally faced torture and death in their home countries.  Economic conditions can compel immigration just as much as any political or social influences, because when someone can’t feed themselves of their family, they must look for somewhere that they can survive.  Human rights conditions are responsible for forcibly displacing immigrants, and our dialogue about immigration needs to reflect this reality.  

That the Constitution of the State of Montana prohibits disparate treatment of immigrants through xenophobia, discrimination, harassment, or racial profiling, and that these activities create serious and lasting divisions that threaten to segregate our immigrant communities.  As a society, we cannot support laws that are based on racism and xenophobia towards immigrant visitors and residents.  Nor can we implement laws that require racial profiling in their implementation.  Such policies run contrary to our fundamental ideals as a state and as a country.  

Senator Kaufmann deserves our admiration and support for bravely stepping forward and proposing this bill.  

Click here to send a message to Montana Legislators that you welcome immigrants to Montana and oppose any laws founded upon racism, xenophobia, or racial profiling.

Note:  In the interest of full disclosure, I am proud to have helped in drafting this bill.