Judge To Rule On Montana Law Requiring
Immigration Checks For State Services
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[May 30, 2014]
By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - A judge is to decide whether a
Montana law that requires proof of legal immigration status to seek
state employment or services infringes on privacy and equal protection
rights guaranteed by the Montana constitution, a state official said on
The law, approved by more than 80 percent of Montana voters in
2012, bars state agencies that oversee everything from student
financial aid to unemployment benefits from providing services to
illegal immigrants. It also requires the agencies to inform U.S.
authorities of the whereabouts of applicants for state services who
are found to be living in the country unlawfully.
The Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance challenged the law in 2012,
claiming constitutional violations and arguing that it tramples on
the federal government’s mandate to decide on citizenship and
naturalization matters. It named the Montana attorney general and
governor, among others, as defendants.
But the state and the immigrant advocacy group agreed at a hearing
on Wednesday to forego a trial and seek a state judge’s ruling,
which is expected soon, said John Barnes, spokesman for Montana
Attorney General Tim Fox.
“The state asked the court to rule in its favor on summary judgment,
which means no trial. Motions for summary judgment are fairly
common, from all sides,” Barnes told Reuters in an email.
The move comes as a number of U.S. groups push for policy reform to
allow the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United
States to obtain a pathway to citizenship, even as many Republicans
complain the federal government is not doing enough to secure the
country's southern border.
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In Montana, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock and Fox, a Republican,
argued in legal filings that the law does no more and no less than
existing federal statutes that require proof of citizenship for
certain government services.
The state said that while federal law does not require notification
to authorities when applicants for such services are unable to
demonstrate “eligible legal alien status,” it does not restrict such
reporting, according to legal filings.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)
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