Montana immigration law ruled unconstitutional

A judge in Montana ruled this week that a law approved by voters in 2012 was, in fact, unconstitutional. The law, Legislative Referendum 121, attempted to limit the amount of money spent on undocumented immigrants by denying them any sort of federal income, such as a government job or access to a federally subsidized assistance program.

Ultimately, Legislative Referendum 121 called for the creation and enactment of a very large database. The database in question was to hold information regarding the citizenship status of Montanans, and would be checked whenever an individual applied for either a government job or a federally subsidized program, such as welfare, unemployment or assistance for victims of crime. Were the person in question a citizen, nothing would happen. Were they an undocumented immigrant, however, their information would be handed over to local and federal immigration authorities.

The referendum had initially experienced a great deal of support, being voted in by a landslide in 2012 as nearly 80 percent of Montana voters were in favor of it. However, It was never enforced after being passed into law because it was met with an almost instant challenge from an immigration advocacy group. That December, the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, led by Shahid Haque-Hausrath, who serves as an immigration attorney in Montana, sued to block the law.

Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena, Montana, presided over the case. He ultimately ruled that the law violated the constitution based on the fact that it provides its own definition of what an undocumented immigrant was, which is not based in federal law.

After the ruling, John Barnes, a spokesman for Attorney General Tim Fox, did not offer much concrete information in regard to whether or not their office would bring an appeal.

“We have a period of time in which to make a decision on appealing,” Barnes said, speaking to USA Today. “It is premature at this point as to whether or not we’re going to appeal.”