Montana’s GOP Senate candidates weigh in on immigration, Dreamers and border wall

Demonstrators in support of the immigration rules implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, rally at Los Angeles international airport in Los Angeles early last year. ( REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

At a forum this week, the last question posed to Montana’s four Republican candidates vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate suggested that America has a “problem” with illegal immigration.

From that standpoint, the candidates were asked how they’d deal with it, and if they’d support building a wall on the southern border.

Here are their answers, in their own words.

Troy Downing said his campaign is based on “protecting the American dream” and suggested that starts by protecting the nation’s security.

“One of the problems we have right now, we have people crossing our borders and we need to stop that leaking. We need to stop the illegal passage of people. If we continue to just allow the unfettered access of illegal immigrants, it’s going to change everything. We don’t have infrastructure or the ability to deal with it, and it’s going to cause tremendous problems long term.

“One of the things that we talk a lot about is just the people coming across. That’s not the whole problem. I like to put this in terms of how it affects Montana the most. Having leaks in our border affects Montana the most, not by illegal aliens coming here. It’s Mexican meth. Mexican meth is coming across our border and it’s devastating our communities here. It may not be affecting you or your family directly, but it is affecting you because it’s creating huge problems for our law enforcement.”

Russell Fagg said a successful immigration policy starts with secure borders and that he supports President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration system.

“The big issue today is the Dreamers. I think we can take a common-sense approach to this. We’re not going to send them all home. That’s not reasonable and it’s not compassionate. We’re not going to grant them all amnesty. That’s not appropriate either.

“So let’s run them through a merit-based immigration system and if they pass muster, if they have a job, if they’re a producing member of society, if they’re paying taxes and if they’ve learned English, then by all means, let’s give them a path to citizenship. They don’t get ahead of anybody, but they can go through that same path that all our ancestors did when we came into this country.

“On the other hand, if they’ve broken the law, if they don’t have a job and they’re not producing, then by all means, we’re going to send those people home. They don’t deserve to be here. To me, that’s the American system and it works.”

Al Olszewski said his views on immigration were “very simple.” He’d build “a high wall and a wide gate” to address what the moderator suggested was a problem with illegal immigration.

“Our borders right now are so porous that the price of drugs is very cheap. It fuels our epidemic of addiction. A higher wall, a solid wall, one that not only provides national security but also prevents trafficking of people and drugs across the border, will be very effective and helpful to our state and society.

“But we also need a wide gate. We need to fix our immigration system. I’m the grandson and great-grandson of immigrants that came here from Europe. I agree, we are a melting pot, and I’m very proud of my heritage, and I’m proud to see other people like Nikki Haley, whose parents came from India and isn’t she a rock star for the UN as our ambassador?

“We need that kind of spunk, we need that energy, and you know what, it comes from mixing ourselves with our immigrants and developing such a great society. So yes, high wall, wide gate.”

Matt Rosendale said the powers of government are supposed to be “few and limited.” The most important thing the federal government is charged with, he added, is protecting American citizens and the nation’s interests, both at home and abroad.

“They have failed miserably by allowing people to come in and out of our country, and they don’t know who they are, where they are, or how long they’re going to be here.

“Number one, we absolutely have to build a wall. It’s been proven in areas around the globe that it works. If you look at Israel, they built a wall to protect their nation, and it reduced the tax by 75 percent. We went down in Yuma, Arizona, built a section of wall, and it reduced illegal crossings by 90 percent.

“What separates us from the rest of the world is our constitution and that we’re a nation of laws. We have to protect our border, and we have to enforce the laws that are in place now. If we don’t like the laws that are in place right now, there is a process with which we can change them. In this country, we don’t just ignore laws. Everyone has to honor them, and you’re supposed to have equal justice under the law, and that’s not taking place right now.”