Immigration Law

Anti-Immigrant Law Hits Roadblock in Big Sky Country

"Judge Jeffrey Sherlock has granted a partial preliminary injunction, issuing “limiting constructions” on the ways that the State of Montana can implement LR-121.  You can download the order here.  This order is significant because it constitutes the first decision in the State of Montana to address the constitutionality of any state-level enforcement of federal immigration laws.

This order recognizes two important failings in the referendum that was referred to Montana voters by the legislature:

  • The state is barred from relying solely on the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (“SAVE”) system to make determinations about a person’s eligibility for benefits.  As stated in our Complaint, the SAVE system is simply not meant to be used to make a determination of a person’s legal status in the country, which is precisely what LR-121 calls for.  The court held that it “would be inappropriate for the State to merely rely on the SAVE program to make its determination.”  Now, if the state wants to utilize the SAVE system, it must do so in conjunction with a lawful method of verifying a person’s citizenship or immigration status.  This leaves some unanswered questions about exactly what methods the state will use, but constitutes a shift in the way the state had planned to implement the law.
  • The court has stricken unconstitutional language from the definition of “illegal alien” under the law.  As we argued, LR-121 conflicts with federal law by saying that anyone who illegally entered the country is an “illegal alien” and will be denied state services — even if they now have green cards.  Last week we filed nine affidavits from immigrants who illegally entered the United States, but do not illegally remain in the United States, and challenged how LR-121 would impact them.  The court recognized that this definition conflicts with federal laws, and found “it appropriate that a preliminary injunction be issued to prevent the implementation of the offending language of LR-121.”

The court concluded its order by stating: ”There are obvious deficiencies in LR 121 that should be addressed by the legislature. If not, this Court will address them as this case moves forward.” " - Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, Mar. 28, 2013.

[Hats off to attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath!]