Posted: Jun 22, 2013 9:30 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) are still considering how they will vote on a bill which would create a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million illegal immigrants.
Baucus admits the immigration system is broken and wants to make sure any plans to fix it focus on beefing up border security along Montana's 500 mile long Canadian border.
"Immigrants need to earn their way to citizenship by paying taxes, learning English, working, and passing background checks," Baucus says.
Tester is offering amendments to the bill in order to change the pay for border patrol agents and make sure the E-Verify program is only used to check employment status and doesn't turn into a national ID system.
If the bill makes it out of the Senate, which is expected, the House could either take it up or debate its own bill.
U.S. Representative Steve Daines (R-MT) says his biggest concern is securing the borders.
"I will not support any proposal that contains amnesty for illegal immigrants currently in our country. We cannot reward unlawful behavior," Daines says.
He would, however, like to see more high-skilled workers enter legally.
However, the Montana Human Rights Network has been phone banking trying to drum up support for the bill.
Program Director Kim Abbott says the nation's immigration system has been broken for far too long.
"Families get caught up and torn apart in it," Abbott says. "[This bill] will have an incredible economic effect that's positive. Montana is part of the U.S. economy. Although we may have fewer immigrants as a percentage of population we do have immigrants working in all of our communities."
According to the Immigration Policy Center, an estimated 2% of Montanans are foreign-born and fewer than 1% of the workforce is here illegally.
So even though the numbers seems small, Montana delegates will have a voice on an issue of national importance.