Never miss a post. Subscribe today.

Montana Politics

Jesse Laslovich and Pam Bucy on Immigration

One of the great things about blogs is that they provide a forum for experts to provide more detailed information on subjects the media simply lacks the time to cover fully. A great example of that comes in the form of two posts by local immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath discussing the immigration records of Democratic Attorney General candidates Pam Bucy and Jesse Laslovich.

On Bucy:

I believe that the manner in which Pam Bucy handled this situation calls into question her interpretation of the privacy protections of the Montana Constitution, and her willingness to share confidential information with the federal government.  These are issues that are important to those who oppose state-level enforcement of immigration laws, but are also important to Montana in many other respects.  For instance, this may be of interest to those who are advocating for Montana’s medical marijuana laws.

In summary, I believe that Pam Bucy took conduct that was a very clear violation of the law, wrote new rules to seemingly prohibit the illegal conduct, but also created significant loopholes that would purport to legalize this very same conduct.

In the end, I view this as actually making our confidentiality protections worse — not better.  In the interest of bureaucratic administration, I believe Pam Bucy has set aside important privacy considerations under Montana law.

On Laslovich:

Jesse Laslovich voted on three relevant bills in 2005, four relevant bills in 2007, and five relevant bills in 2009 — for  total of 12 bills relating to state-level enforcement of immigration laws.

There were a total of four votes that I would characterize as “incorrect” votes, including one bill that he sponsored.  However, as noted above, the bill he sponsored in 2005 did not attempt to create any enforcement mechanism or penalties.  Therefore, it is not in quite the same category as the later bills sponsored by Jim Shockley and others.

In the 2007 session, Jesse Laslovich was a swing vote that killed SB 258, which would deny state licenses and license renewal to “illegal aliens.”  This was a 25-25 vote.

In the 2009 session, which was Jesse Laslovich’s last session in the Senate, he played an important role on the Senate Judiciary Committee as several of Jim Shockley’s anti-immigrant bills were debated.

I’ll let Shahid’s work speak for itself, but it highlights one of the key challenges in this race: while Laslovich has a very public legislative record, it’s much more difficult to see where Ms. Bucy stands on issues, not because of any obfuscation on her part, but simply because of the jobs she’s held.  A couple of well-researched posts like these offer invaluable insight into the values and priorities of the candidates and are well worth your time.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


Click here to post a comment

Please enter an e-mail address

  • I truly believe healthy debate is good for democracy (even when it feels terribly like fighting with dear friends!). I also believe primaries are good for the Democratic Party in part because it gives us a space to talk about important issues like immigration that too often get swept under the rug in the name of “good politics.”

    I also want to say clearly and unequivocally that I have the utmost respect for Shahid and his work- largely unpaid- fighting for immigrants in Montana and fighting for a more just state and country for all of us. His dedication is uncommon and should be commended.

    For professional and personal reasons, I have never commented or posted on a political blog. However, the fact that I have a unique perspective on Pam’s commitment to justice compels me to publicly support her in this context. Her varied and impressive legal experience is already well-known. What is less well-known is her 16 years of quiet, unpaid, tireless work for access to justice in this state. I know that her commitment to justice is genuine and deeply grounded in the core of who she is and what she believes.

    I met Pam when I moved to Montana, right out of law school, to work for Montana Legal Services Association. Representing victims of domestic violence in eastern Montana, I was blown away by the utter and complete lack of access to justice for too many Montanans who couldn’t afford an attorney to help them exercise their rights in relation to housing, credit, parenting, and safety.

    When I met Pam, at 33 years old, she had already put herself through law school as a single mom and was Executive Assistant Attorney General (aka Chief Deputy) under Mike McGrath. She was pregnant with her second child, and, somehow, she found the time to serve as the volunteer Chair of the Supreme Court’s Equal Justice Task Force. This was more than a title for Pam. She showed dedication in her passionate leadership, but she also got her hands dirty doing all kinds of work that needed to be done to increase access to justice for low-income Montanans.

    In all of the years we worked with each other on access to justice issues, she was NEVER without a pro bono case. And she took the thankless ones that no one else wanted- complicated, highly contested, ugly, multi-year family law cases. There are women and children in Montana whose rights and safety were only protected because of Pam’s volunteer work. Her rare dedication has been recognized by her peers: In 2006, she was recognized by the State Bar with both a pro bono award and an award for distinguished service for access to justice.

    When the State Bar received a bit of money to do a legal needs survey, she didn’t just lead the effort, she joined Americorps VISTA volunteers in conducting hour long interviews of low-income Montanans all across this state. Then she led the effort to have the legislature commission their own study of legal needs. That study directly led to the first-ever investment by the state in services, forms, and support for unrepresented litigants in Montana.

    She helped create the first pro bono policy for state workers in Montana.

    More recently, she demonstrated her commitment to access to justice on the Board of the Montana Legal Services Association. The list goes on and on and on….

    I haven’t met a candidate yet who shares all of my beliefs or all of my policy positions. What I look for are people who share my core values, who I fundamentally trust to do the right thing, and who are committed to work hard for the people they represent. Pam is without question that candidate for me.

    I can honestly say, without any fear of hyperbole or exaggeration, that Montana is a more just state because of Pam’s volunteer work over the last 16 years. Her commitment to justice is as deep and sincere as any person’s I know. I hope readers will consider this quiet, dedicated, and largely unknown part of Pam when they cast their votes for Attorney General in the primary.

  • When I saw this post on the MT Cowgirl website, I did not realize that it had originally been written as a form of “response” to my blog post recounting a professional interaction I had with Pam Bucy. As you can see from the article linked above, that blog post described several discussions I had with Pam Bucy about the illegal disclosure of private information by the Department of Labor and Industry to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) officers. I felt that this conduct was legally unsupportable, and was harming migrants by allowing ICE to engage in secret and illegal investigations without a warrant or legal basis. Pam Bucy generally disagreed, and felt that disclosure was permitted by law.

    I included direct quotes from Pam Bucy, and discussed my disappointment with her handling of the situation. In conclusion, I stated that this may provide some insight into the manner in which she might fulfill her role as Attorney General if she were elected.

    As many voters base their voting decisions on much less than this, I felt that this interaction would be of interest to others, and everyone could reach their own conclusion about how this impacts their vote, if at all.

    I take issue with Tara’s comment as any form of response to what I wrote about in my blog post. Tara speaks eloquently and passionately about her friend’s professional accomplishments. I have no reason to doubt anything that she says or the fact that Pam Bucy has committed a significant portion of her career to public service. However, I don’t understand how that public service in any way contradicts or invalidates the professional interaction I described in my original blog post, or the concerns it raised.

    Indeed, as one of the only people advocating for immigrant justice issues in the State of Montana, it appears dismissive of these concerns to minimize them because of Pam Bucy’s pro bono service on behalf of different constituencies. Unless we are to believe that Pam Bucy’s public service renders her infallible, then that public service is not directly relevant to the issues I was discussing.

    I believe that this response is a good example of the way that some of Bucy’s supporters have attempted to minimize discussion of factual issues or political positions in support of more general endorsements of her personal character and accomplishments. At its best, politics is about high level discussions about ideas and ideology. At its most base level, the discourse becomes about “cult of personality.”

    It has been disappointing and disheartening to see this campaign play out in Helena over the past several months. Rather than using the primary election as a means to flesh out the candidates’ positions on progressive issues, we have seen this campaign become nothing more than a popularity contest.

    Some prominent progressives who are good friends with Bucy have naturally been vocal in their support of her campaign. Despite great respect for these people, personal recommendations only go so far, because if we are honest we know that every candidate has close friends who will advocate for them. Like many other progressives, I reject the premise that I must support a candidate just because my friends do. For the rest of us, we want to know the candidate’s actual positions — but we want these positions on the record, not through second or third-hand assurances from friends.

    This has been part of the frustration that I and many others have felt with Bucy’s campaign. Whether intentionally or not, Bucy supporters have contributed to an atmosphere that has prevented a genuine discussion about the candidate’s positions on important issues. As many of these supporters would normally tell you, this type of discussion is why a primary is good for the Democratic party.

    I can completely understand how these supporters feel passionately about Bucy because they have been friends with her for some time. However, instead of allowing their support for the candidate to be borne out by the candidates own statements, they seem to be asking us to just “trust them” because they know Bucy personally. These same people often demand that other candidates state their positions clearly on the record — and rightly hold them accountable when they do not.

    While I don’t agree with Jesse Laslovich on all of the issues, I have grown to respect the fact that he has been clear about his positions throughout his campaign, while Bucy has appeared to benefit from ambiguity — stating moderate-left positions on the record, but making more progressive assurances behind closed doors. In reality, both candidates appear to be very similar on the relevant issues.

    A few examples of what I am talking about:

    On the death penalty, Bucy has stated on the record that she will “enforce” the death penalty. She has not publicly made any qualifications or limitations on its use, or any statement regarding her personal opposition to it. Nevertheless, there are progressives who believe that her “real” position is that she is opposed to the death penalty, and will take steps to limit its use. Whether this belief is based on private conversations or extrapolating from their personal friendship — this is not supported by anything she has said publicly.

    On how she would vote on the land board, many progressives believe she will be a strong advocate for the environment, making tough votes like Denise Juneau did on Otter Creek coal. However, when she was endorsed by Montana Conservation Voters, she stated in her interview that she would have voted in favor of Otter Creek coal development as long as the company paid a fair price. Her endorsement by MCV was not based on better environmental positions than Jesse Laslovich — it was based on the fact that she was considered to be more knowledgable about the issues. However, this is another area where ambiguity or conjecture has benefitted Bucy.

    On other issues from medical marijuana to alternative treatment courts, the candidates have stated very similar positions on the record. Nevertheless, within Helena circles one might be left with the impression that our very legal system was at stake in this primary election. This sentiment is based in large part on tensions that I believe to be fueled by the Bucy campaign.

    It should go without saying that there is no accountability to the voting public for statements made behind closed doors. I’d like to see a simple and generally accepted principle be applied to this primary: If you won’t state your position publicly, then you don’t get credit for it. It never gets easier to take a clear position on a political issue, especially progressive issues in Montana. If she doesn’t do it now, she won’t do it in the general election, and she won’t do it while in office.

    I believe I have now said all I have to say on this subject. As discussions of this nature are time consuming and try on personal friendships, I will attempt to avoid further engagement on this topic. It bears repeating that despite the unnecessarily personal nature of this primary, the candidates are objectively quite similar on the issues and I will support either one in the general election.

  • Pam was a classmate of mine, and Jesse was too far behind me to get to know him. But if you believe that you elect people to handle all sorts of problems that can’t necessarily be known when you vote, you vote for the person with the character that you admire. Pam is a good solid liberal, and always has been. As to Shaid’s comment about her position on the death penalty, as the AG both she and Jesse will be required to defend it, even if it is stupid.
    And to Shahid, the issue of immigration is pretty low on the state level of concern. So much is driven by the feds, that we have very little impact outside of Helena.

    “Where did my client go?” – “Oh the feds took him, you’ll probably never see him again.”

    Frustrating, but little we could do without trying to be the reverse of Arizona.

Support Our Work!


Who Are You Supporting in the Democratic Primary for the Senate

Subscribe Via E-mail

Follow us on Twitter

Send this to a friend