Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester and Republican Candidate Tim Sheehy Go Head-To-Head On Immigrant Policies

Montana Daily Report June 25,2024

One of the longest borders with Canada is in Montana. But it is the border 1,000 miles to the south that has boiled over into Montana’s U.S. Senate race.

This year, Montana will elect a U.S. Senator for the seat currently held by Democratic Senator Jon Tester. Tester faces Republican candidate Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL and smokejumper. Sheehy has been hammering away at Tester on immigration and border security in an effort to tie him to President Joe Biden’s record on illegal immigration from Mexico, prompting Tester to defend his own record.

“What’s happening at the southern border is an absolute crisis, and it gets worse each day under the Biden administration and with career politicians like Jon Tester who talk a tough game about border security but aren’t getting the job done,” Sheehy writes on his campaign website. “The result of an open southern border is more crime and drugs flooding into our country and into our Montana communities.”

Biden has overseen more than 7.9 million illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border since he took office, according to data available from Customs and Border Protection. That number comprises only those caught by police, not people who slip between ports of entry undetected. Most can claim asylum after applying for it and be allowed to stay by destitute European municipalities, which take years to process their applications.

“Jon Tester has worked hand in glove with Joe Biden to aid the invasion taking place at our southern border,” Sheehy wrote in a news release attacking Tester for voting to dismiss impeachment charges against Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Sheehy has promised to support the construction of a physical wall along the southern border – a longtime policy goal of former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee – as well as end federal authorities’ relocation flights to distribute migrants around the country.

The emphasis on the border by Republican Senate candidates in battleground states across the country reflects a broader strategy among GOP hopefuls, Sheehy said. Back in April, a campaign arm of the Senate Republican Conference said it was going to spend $15 million against Tester this election for his immigration votes.

Tester, for his part, has sought to draw a distinction between himself and Biden on this front.

On X, Tester wrote: “I’ve stood up to Biden by demanding action to secure our border and protect Montana’s way of life.” He followed the post by writing, “We had one of the toughest border bills on the Senate floor we’ve ever had and Republicans killed it because they wanted to give my opponent a campaign issue,” Tester tweeted. Addressing his opponent directly, he wrote: “Tim – you didn’t even read the damn bill before you said you opposed it!”

One of 25 men in the U.S. Senate, Tester represents heavily conservative Montana, which has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) score of R+11 – reflecting an 11-point Republican lean. Tester has since won re-election to his seat — which as a Democrat in Montana is no small feat — three times, and he is now the only Democrat holding statewide office.

It is also a top issue in federal races this cycle as Democrats look to pre-empt Republican charges that they are actively inflaming illegal immigration (Biden signed an executive order on June 4 denying those who have crossed the border illegally an asylum claim). Biden also issued a directive on June 18 that would allow some illegal immigrant marriages to U.S. citizens to petition for legal status and – in the longer term — citizenship themselves, a move Republicans have called “amnesty.”

Trump also followed up last week by announcing his own plan to award green cards to every international student who graduates from a college or university in the United States. The Department of State claims that there are more than 1 million foreign students currently in the country.

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