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Montana reviewing request to send law enforcement to southern border

Montana is weighing how to respond to a request from the governors of Texas and Arizona for states to send law enforcement resources to the southern border.

Governors Greg Abbott and Doug Ducey, both Republicans, asked for states to "send all available law enforcement resources to the border in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity."

A spokesperson for Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, said Wednesday that Montana is considering how to respond.

"There is a growing crisis on the southern border that the federal government has failed to address. We are reviewing the feasibility of assisting with the governors’ request," spokesperson Brooke Stroyke said in an email.

The letter cites the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an agreement that allows states to share resources in times of disaster or emergency.

Other Republican governors have responded to the June 10 letter.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that both state and local law enforcement officers would be sent to Texas and Arizona. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has also said he'd send 25 state troopers and Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he'd send resources, though he did not provide specifics.

Abbott and Ducey's letter criticizes the Biden administration as "unwilling or unable" to enforce federal immigration laws and says that cartels are transporting drugs and human trafficking victims into the U.S.

"Given the staggering number of violations now occurring in Texas and Arizona, additional manpower is needed from any state that can spare it," Abbott and Ducey wrote.

In the letter, the governors say there's a "surge of illegal border crossings, with the accompanying threats to private property and to the safety of our citizens." They say that in the Arizona Border Strike Force has intercepted 284 pounds of fentanyl since it was created in 2015.

In May the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency had just over 180,000 enforcement encounters along the southern border, a record high for a single month.

Past CBP data shows the number of encounters changes dramatically from year to year. In the 2018 fiscal year, for example, there were 521,090, but there were 977,509 the following year and 458,088 in 2020, a year marked by the pandemic. From October to May, three have been 929,868 encounters.

In a speech last week, Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen also focused on the southern border. Knudsen called methamphetamine abuse "the biggest problem facing our state right now" and said the drug is transported into Montana by Mexican cartels. Knudsen also connected the issue to illegal immigration.

"We have got a president who is refusing to enforce federal law regarding illegal immigration, and it's blowing the door on the southern border even wide open for the cartels to walk right through," Knudsen said.

In March, Knudsen joined a lawsuit, along with Arizona, against the Department of Homeland Security related to federal immigration policy halting deportations for 100 days.

When Democratic President Joe Biden was campaigning, he vowed to not deport anyone during his first 100 days in office while reviewing immigration policies and procedures. 

Biden's then-acting Homeland Security secretary issued a memo pausing the deportation of some people in January, which triggered the lawsuit originally filed by Texas. A federal judge has blocked the pause on deportations while the case progresses.

"We've sued the Biden administration, forcing them to enforce the laws that are already on the books and secure that southern border. That's a huge one for our state security," Knudsen said.

In a deposition in that case, the administrator of the Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminals Investigation said Mexico was the source of most methamphetamine and heroin in Montana.

"Nearly all the methamphetamine available in Montana originates in Mexico from drug cartels. The supply of methamphetamine in Montana has become so abundant and widely available that that prices have steadily dropped over the last few years, said Brian Lockerby. "Moreover, law enforcement has encountered an actual Mexican drug cartel presence in the state."

The Biden administration told migrants in June "do not come" to the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will go to the border Friday, the administration announced Wednesday. That comes following criticism from Republicans that she'd not traveled there. Biden has asked Harris to address causes in Central America that trigger migration in an effort to reduce the number of people who attempt to enter the U.S.

At the GOP convention last weekend, Gianforte echoed that disapproval.

"Has Kamala even been to the border?" Gianforte said to a crowd that yelled back "No."

Montana State News Bureau

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