AP, May 11, 2016
The Montana Supreme Court has barred state officials from reporting the immigration status of people seeking state services, striking down the last piece of a voter-approved law meant to deter people who are in the U.S. illegally from living and working in Montana.
The court’s unanimous decision on Tuesday upholds a Helena judge’s 2014 ruling in a lawsuit that the law denying unemployment benefits, university enrollment and other services to people who arrived in the country illegally was unconstitutional.
The justices went further, rejecting the one remaining provision that required state workers to report to federal immigration officials the names of applicants who are not in the U.S. legally.
The Montana Legislature sent the anti-immigrant measure to the 2012 ballot, where it was approved by 80 percent of voters. The new law required state officials to check the immigration status of applicants for unemployment insurance benefits, crime victim services, professional or trade licenses, university enrollment and financial aid and services for the disabled, among other things.
The law required state officials to deny services to people found to be in the country illegally, and to turn over their names to immigration officials for possible deportation proceedings.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath said the decision sends a message that the state has no business creating its own immigrant enforcement schemes.
“The law was a discriminatory attempt to drive immigrants out of the state, and would have unjustly targeted immigrants with valid federal immigration status,” he said.