Astonishing Immigration Patriot Victory In Montana—No Thanks To GOP, Which Ran Away (And Lost)

 The November 6 election had some more under-reported good news for immigration patriots: Montana’s Legislative Referendum 121 [LR-121, pdf, see pp. 8-11], restricting illegal immigrant’s use of taxpayer-funded programs (think California’s Prop 187 or Arizona’s Prop. 200), passed overwhelmingly—with an astonishing 80 pecent of the vote.

You’ve not seen that endlessly chewed over in the Main Stream Media, have you?

It`s especially instructive to compare LR-121`s thumping triumph with statewide-candidate races which show Montanans to be ticket-splitters par excellence:

  • GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney won, but with 55.36 percent—almost 25 points behind LR-121.
  • And Democrat Jon Tester was re-elected U.S. senator, with 48.51 percent of the vote. Tester`s main opponent, Republican Congressman Dennis Rehberg, got 44.8 percent, losing in part because the Dems distracted some of his voters by spending oodles of money touting Libertarian candidate Dan Cox, who got 5 percent. Rehberg had a B+ NumbersUSA rating as a Congressman, but failed to complete Numbers` pre-election questionnaire and said nothing about the issue in the campaign.
  • Republican Steve Daines is our newly-elected (and sole) congressman, having received 53.19 percent of the vote in another three-person race. 
  • Democrat Steve Bullock is governor-elect with 48.90 percent of the vote against Republican Rick Hill`s 47.34 percent (three-way race). Incredibly, Hill did not raise LR-121 in his campaign.
  • The Dems won all the other state executive offices, excepting attorney general, but none of these races were blowouts.

As far as I can see, none of the GOP candidates mentioned LR-121.

It won. They lost.

Illegal immigration is not even particularly noticeable in Montana (yet). But since retiring to the Bozeman area from southern California in 2005, I`ve found that Montanans generally have a healthy aversion to it.  You see this in the plentiful comments from online readers on immigration-focused articles or letters in the Billings Gazette, the state`s largest newspaper.  Look at the critical comments by readers on this op-ed which opposed LR-121: Guest opinion: LR-121 would bring costly, racist burden to Montana, by Bethany Letiecq [email her] and Travis McAdam [email him], September 01, 2012.

Indeed, according to a 2011 Pew Hispanic Center report [Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010, PDF], Montana is burdened by fewer than 10,000 illegal aliens—out of a total population of just short of one million.  (Pew`s figures include illegal aliens of all origins, not solely Hispanics.) 

The Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR) conservatively took 5,000 as its estimate for Montana`s illegal-alien population when calculating [PDF, see p. 78] that the annual state budget burden from families headed by illegal aliens circa 2011 was $31 million—which is  appreciable considering that  some of the state`s larger school districts have had budget shortfalls like $2 million/year, starting during the Great Recession.     

(FAIR`s figure counts only direct net costs of illegal aliens i.e. taxes they pay minus benefits they collect, not indirect costs like reduced tax payments and increased public budget burden because citizens and legal immigrants suffer lower salaries or are squeezed out of jobs altogether by illegal-alien workforce competition.)

More definitively, Montana`s U.S. senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, cast critical votes against the proposed McCain-Kennedy amnesty hyper-disaster in 2007 and against the DREAM Act during the 2010 lame duck session.  They know their state. In 2007, a Bozeman-district office staffer for Baucus told me that all seven of the senator`s state offices were experiencing steady streams of phone calls opposing amnesty, with zero calls in favor of it. 

The November 6, 2012 triumph of LR-121 was the most definitive proof yet: immigration patriotism is a winning issue in Montana.

There are several numbers-focused ways to look at LR-121`s thumping victory:

  • With 79.51 percent of voters favoring LR-121 (nearly a 4:1 approval ratio), it was, percentage-wise, the most successful race on Montana`s statewide ballot.  Its closest competitor for bragging rights: Initiative 166, which amounted to a symbolic protest against the U.S. Supreme Court`s “Citizens United” decision. I-166 won 74.67 percent of its vote (about 3:1).
  • Montanans were engaged in the LR-121 vote: Overall turnout in Montana was 491,966 voters (72.18 percent of those registered), and 476,091 voted on LR-121.  That`s the largest vote total for any of the five ballot issues and only slightly below the top candidate races, U.S. senator (486,066), president (483,932), and governor (483,489).
  • LR-121 won everywhere, cities and sticks. 
    • It won a landslide majority in each of the state`s 56 counties.  Big Horn County was least enthusiastic, giving LR-121 “only” 63.77 percent of its 4,449 votes.  (Perhaps it`s significant that this county`s population is nearly 60 percent American Indian, many of them living on the Crow Reservation.  Similarly, Glacier County contains the Blackfeet Reservation and is about 62 percent American Indian: LR-121 won “only” 68.08 percent there.)
    • In eight rural counties (Carter, Fallon, Garfield, Golden Valley, McCone, Musselshell, Petroleum, and Phillips), the Yes:No ratio was greater than 9:1.
    • But LR-121 also did well in the seven counties enveloping each of Montana`s “big” cities.  I`ll list the winning percentages alphabetically by city and include the corresponding county in parentheses: Billings (Yellowstone), 83.80; Bozeman (Gallatin), 71.59; Butte (Silver Bow), 76.31; Great Falls (Cascade), 84.04; Helena (Lewis & Clark), 74.02; Kalispell (Flathead), 83.89; and Missoula (Missoula), 66.80. Note that Butte is a heavily union-dominated city and Missoula, home of the University of Montana, is widely regarded as Montana`s answer to Berkeley, California and Madison, Wisconsin.
    • LR-121 performed better than Obama even in the eight Montana counties that Obama carried.  Here are his top four counties, each followed by his winning percentage there, then by LR-121`s winning percentage there: Big Horn 62.30/63.77; Deer Lodge 64.13/80.39; Glacier 65.63/68.08; Silver Bow 64.31/76.31. 

Implication?  Take the Big Horn results as an example. Let`s assume that 62 percent of the county`s voters are Democrats and, hence, 38 percent are Republicans.  Then assume that all the Republicans voted for LR-121.  If the other 26 percentage points of support for LR-121 came from Democrats, that implies that 26/62 = 42 percent of Democrats voted for the measure. 

The same exercise for Deer Lodge County implies that 69 percent of the Democrats there voted for LR-121!  (Perhaps it`s significant that the state prison is in Deer Lodge.)

For the whole state, using Obama and LR-121 vote shares, it appears that about 56% of Democrats supported LR-121—a decisive majority.

(In the preceding, I took vote numbers and percentages from the Montana Secretary of State`s elections web page and demographic information from Wikipedia, where it is based on the 2000 and 2010 censuses.)

LR-121`s sheer numerical winning margin is dramatic.  But the on-the-ground story—perhaps better, the non-story—of the campaign is even more significant. 

We supporters really didn`t get our act together to make a significant push.  We had no money and few committed activists.  So the bill sold itself! 

As a friend and fellow founder of Montanans for Immigration Law Enforcement [MILE] told me during the summer, “I`ve shown LR-121 to a bunch of people, and everyone thinks it`s a no-brainer to vote for it.” 

David HowardThat had been the expectation of State Representative David Howard (R-Park City—pictured right), who sponsored House Bill 638, the “seed” for LR-121. A Republican-commissioned state poll covering multiple subjects taken shortly after 2010`s election showed that action against illegal immigration is a “70-percent issue” among Montanans, meaning that 70 percent of voters favor such measures.

(I later complained to Rep. Howard that he`d misled me: The vote on LR-121 showed that illegal immigration is actually an 80-percent issue!)

The poll encouraged Republican legislators, led by Howard, to offer several bills aimed at combating illegal immigration.  But Howard knew that Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer would probably veto any bills that reached him. So Howard also introduced HB 638, which let the legislature do an end run around Schweitzer by approving the bill—with, as it turned out, zero support from Democrats in either house—and offering it directly to the voters for enactment. 

Indeed, Schweitzer did veto an anti-sanctuary-cities bill which was actually supported by one Dem legislator in each house—along with essentially every Repub. In his veto message [PDF], the governor called the bill “frivolous”—the concept of learning from the bad examples of other states that let themselves be overrun by illegal aliens apparently being beyond him.

In the campaign, of course, we did what we could on our near-zero budget.  Several members of MILE had letters printed in various papers around the state (e.g. here, here, and here); I spoke at several small political gatherings and was interviewed on the radio (You can listen here.  The two segments total about 25 minutes.). And I had an op-ed [Take action now; stop illegal immigration, November 02, 2012] in the very liberal Missoula paper—of all places!—a few days before the election.  In addition, NumbersUSA and FAIR sent email alerts in support of LR-121 to all their Montana members.

(Montana members of the Treason Lobby had two op-eds laden with evasive blather against LR-121—the Letiecq-McAdam “costly, racist burden” op-ed cited above, which appeared in six of the state`s largest papers; and LR-121 is counter to state`s roots, by Lutheran Bishop Jessica Crist [email her], Great Falls Tribune, Nov 3, 2012—in addition to a few published letters.)

I linked those letters, my op-ed, and the interview because I think the arguments in them are pretty good and may be useful to others.  But it seems unlikely that they, and the “broadcasts” by Numbers and FAIR, could have reached more than a small fraction of potential voters statewide.

Thus, as multi-decade immigration-sanity activist Rick Oltman enthused to me after Election Day, LR-121 was close to a “pure” case: Montana voters made up their minds about it without much outside influence, most were interested enough to vote on the subject, and they overwhelmingly displayed disgust for illegal immigration.

This didn`t surprise Oltman.  Shortly after the 2010 election, he posted a memorable article about politicians around the country who had just won big in races where they had forthrightly endorsed Arizona`s “notorious” SB1070, which had been enacted that spring.  In the most heartening case, wrote Rick:

Fontana [CA] city councilwoman Acquanetta Warren in July of 2010 publicly endorsed Arizona’s SB 1070. Pro-illegal alien activists denounced her in the media and at city council meetings. To quote the November 3rd San Bernardino Sun “She`s a history maker. Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren became the first black mayor and the first female mayor of this city, with a blowout victory over five opponents on Tuesday. She took 54.6 percent of the vote.” Five other candidates split the remainder of the vote, with number 2 in the race getting 14%.

[Polls are polls and pols are pols. The ultimate poll is Election Day. November 10, 2010]

LR-121 will be fully implemented starting on January 1, 2013. Its direct effect will be modest at first.  This is because the biggest burden on Montana`s state budget arising from illegal-alien families is the K-12 public education of their children (whether the children are illegal aliens themselves or anchor babies)—FAIR`s calculations (see pp. 70- 71 of that PDF document linked above) put this cost at about $20 million/year.  But because of 1982`s appalling Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court decision, the bill can`t affect K-12 education, so that major fraction of the $31 million/year in our total costs won`t decline—except that LR-121`s implementation will encourage illegal-alien families to leave the state

But LR-121`s enactment will sensitize workers in the state`s affected agencies to the fact that illegal immigration is serious business.

And, overall with LR-121, the vote was the thing: If citizens in “remote, unspoiled” Montana are concerned enough to so decisively approve a referendum aimed at discouraging the presence of illegal aliens in their state, that sends a message about the salience of this subject across the entire nation.
 
It should send a message to Dem politicians especially.  After seeing the vote on LR-121, maybe even some members of the Democratic caucus during Montana`s coming legislative session will have second thoughts—or, as Thomas Sowell would write, “perhaps first thoughts”—about their lock-step unwillingness to serve the broad public interest in combating illegal immigration.

Still, Montana`s vote on LR-121 had a significant but too-little-publicized precedent in 2006.  That year, Arizona`s legislature referred to their voting public for enactment three state constitutional amendments and a statute that focused on illegal immigration, Propositions 100, 102, 103, and 300.

The results were summarized in Around the States: National Restaurant Association ELECTION WRAP-UP, Decision ’06 (no longer available online):

In Arizona 4 immigration ballot initiatives passed overwhelmingly, including making English Arizona’s official language (74%), denying bail to illegal aliens (78%), barring illegal aliens from winning punitive damages (74%), and denying in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants (72%).

So America, and specifically the GOP, which had a disastrous 2006 election, has had a chance to learn this fundamental lesson before. 

But Montana`s 2012 vote is even more striking, since Montana, unlike Arizona, isn`t—yet!—an “illegal-immigration state.”  (And we topped Arizona, 80 percent to 78 percent!)

Here, then, is the takeaway for immigration patriots:

If anyone quotes some opinion poll to you saying that most Americans favor a “path to citizenship for illegal aliens,” ask them to explain the actual ballot results on Montana`s LR-121—results which might even be enough to impress, or at least motivate to further repression, the goons of the $PLC, the National Council of la Raza, and the ACLU.

Paul Nachman [email him] is a retired physicist and immigration sanity activist in Bozeman, MT.