Alan Sorensen Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Montana’s lone congressman is supporting legislation that would, among other things, penalize local governments that “provide sanctuary to violent criminal aliens.” U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg has joined 114 members of Congress in reintroducing the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act. The CLEAR Act, originally introduced by the late Charlie Norwood, would establish an efficient system to identify and remove violent criminal aliens from the United States, Rehberg said. The bill, reintroduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would:
clear authority for local agencies to enforce immigration law; improve information sharing so local agencies can practically enforce immigration law; require the federal government to remove and deport criminal aliens; increase federal resources for local governments that choose to enforce the law; reduce federal resources for local governments that provide sanctuary to violent criminal aliens.
Rehberg said the act would impact local agencies here to some degree, but would have less impact than it does on other communities around the country because of the already large U.S. Border Patrol, the federal law enforcement arm of Customs and Border Protection, presence in Havre and along the Hi-Line. “You probably are the least concerned with this legislation than other communities along the northern border from Bellingham (Wash.) To Maine,” Rehberg said in a telephone interview with the Daily News Tuesday. “You don’t necessarily have the problem, but what we want to do is set up a reimbursement for any aliens that they incarcerated.” Rehberg recounted an incident that occurred in Billings recently. While officers were investigating a vehicle suspected of containing illegal aliens, another vehicle pulled up to check on what was going on. The officers then arrested the people in that vehicle, too. All of the suspects were incarcerated in Yellowstone County. “We consider this a federal issue,” Rehberg said. “That’s why I teamed up with someone from Texas, that’s where they really see the problem, and that’s why we thought it was important to team up on this legislation.” Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said his office has a long standing agreement to house suspects brought in by Border Patrol agents. “They bring their suspects into the Hill County Detention Center,” Szudera said. “They’re contract beds and the government pays Hill County for room and board of all the arrests that they make. Right now that fee is $50 per day per inmate charged to the federal government." Havre Police Chief George Tate said he hadn’t heard about the CLEAR Act bill, but didn’t think it would have much impact on Havre and the Hi-Line. He suspected it would be aimed at larger cities and locations that don’t have a large Border Patrol presence. “We’re very fortunate here in Havre where we have the Border Patrol presence,” Tate said. “I don’t how they do it in areas where they don’t have that.” In a press release issued last Wednesday, Rehberg said more than 400,000 fugitive aliens are in the the United States today, and that 85,000 or more have criminal records. “I’ve always said an alien’s first act in this country shouldn’t be an illegal one,” said Rehberg, a membe r o f the Hous e Appropriations Committee. “And we certainly shouldn’t stand by while they commit subsequent crimes. This bill would give local law enforcement and federal agencies the ability to swiftly arrest and deport violent criminal aliens. This will help keep Montana families safe.” Tate said that the Havre Police Department relies on the Border Patrol for help that is freely given. “It’s real hard for us to determine if they’re undocumented, because we don’t have the a lot training in that area,” Tate said. “Usually the kickers are they are unable to speak English, they are evasive when questioned. “Typically, we’ll encounter them by accident, so we don’t have many encounters with aliens in general,” Tate added, “but if there’s any doubt, officers ask for the assistance of the Border Patrol, who will determine if they’re in this country illegally.” Tate said that just because people don’t speak English doesn’t mean they are here illegally. And he didn’t know how larger cities deal with illegal aliens who may live in enclaves with others of their nationality who are here legally or who are U. S. citizens. “They’ve probably got family that are illegal, friends who are undocumented,” Tate said. “I just don’t know that there’d never be a problem in this area. “I know our relationship with (the Border Patrol) is great,” he added. “They’re always willing to help and we’re ready to reciprocate when we can.” Szudera said his office has a good working relationship with area Border Patrol agents, too. “At the present time, the immigration issue doesn’t present a problem for my office,” Szudera said. “Immigration issues are handled by immigation who I work with very closely.” As for any changes in the law, Szudera would do what is needed to comply. “If the legislative process makes the law, the Hill County Sheriff’s Office will enforce the law,” he said. Alex J. Harrington, public affairs specialist for the Havre Sector of the Border Patrol, echoed Tate and Szudera. "The Havre Sector U.S. Border Patrol continually strives to strengthen its relationship with officials from other federal, state, local and tribal organizations, including Canadian law enforcement and intelligence officials, to leverage information and increase communication and cooperation,” Harrington said in a prepared statement. “For example, this year Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol Agents and Great Falls Air Branch were called to assist the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Glacier National Park law enforcement rangers in search of two illegal aliens who tried to cross the U.S./Canadian border, near Chief Mountain.” All of the Havre Sector’s law enforcement cooperation isn’t just along the border, though. Much of it is elsewhere in the state and region, he added. "Also, the Border Patrol continues to provide a deterrent to active smuggling by partnering with local law enforcements to identify illegal activity and support cooperative local law enforcement efforts in both urban and remote areas of the country,” Harrington said. “For example, Great Falls Air Branch provided air support for the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force to serve a search warrant at three separate locations.” Rehberg conclude his press release with call to prioritize the apprehension and deportation of fugitive and criminal aliens. “Those committing violent crimes in our communities should be our first priority when it comes to detaining and deporting illegal aliens,” Rehberg said. “Whether it’s Chinook or Chicago, every community should have the ability to stop these criminals quickly.”