Friday, January 12, 2007

Time to act now in Montana on illegal immigration

Rep. Mike Jopek, D-Whitefish, has proposed a bill that will make things harder on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. The bill is to be applauded, and should have the support of Republicans.

Republicans should, however, link support for this bill to other key areas where illegal immigration directly hurts a state. As former Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown pointed out in a guest opinion in the Billings Gazette a month ago, there are a host of measures that Montana should take now, before the inevitable wave of illegal immigration hits our state.

As Brown pointed out, there are common-sense bills that Montana can pass now, without controversy -- bills that are being passed in other states, but painfully, since they amount to taking things away from illegal immigrants. If we pass them now, we will be setting the rules first.

Laws requiring proof of citizenship to receive welfare benefits or get a driver's license are starting points that Brown mentions, and creative thinking can help Montana think of other laws that will protect our economic interests and protect legal laborers of all races from wage depression and job losses.

Labor unions support Jopek's legislation, as they should. They should also support a broad-based package of legislation to help prevent Montana from having to go through the illegal immigration pains that the rest of the intermountain west has experienced. Montanans should be able to come to agreement on such measures, regardless of politics or party.