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Anti-Immigrant Legislation Being Proposed this Legislative Session

When you think of states embroiled in deep controversies relating to their large immigrant populations, Montana isn’t the first one to come to mind.  Perhaps this is because Montana has one of the smallest percentages of foreign-born residents in the entire United States.  

This hasn’t stopped Montana legislators from proposing twenty-six different bills this legislative session that are intended to regulate immigration – a field traditionally occupied, and in many cases preempted, by federal law.  

At least four of the proposed bills have text available for review.  Gary L. Perry of Manhattan, Montana has sponsored three of these bills (LC0557, LC0558, and LC0560), and David Howard has sponsored one of them (LC1909).  Each of these bills threaten to create serious and lasting divisions that would segregate and disenfranchise members of our immigrant communities.  Over the next few days, I will be discussing each of these proposed bills.  

LC0558, which is sponsored by Gary L. Perry, would make it a misdemeanor or felony to transport, move, conceal, harbor, or shield any alien that you know to be undocumented.  It would also make it a misdemeanor or felony to encourage an undocumented alien to enter or remain in the state without status.  The bill would also provide for forfeiture of property belonging to anyone convicted of any of those offenses.  

The intent of this legislation is to deter legal residents from interacting with individuals who they might know or suspect to be an undocumented alien, for fear of being subjected to criminal penalties and forfeiture of property.  The undocumented immigrants living in Montana are already marginalized and victimized by those who prey upon their inability to report abuses to the authorities.  This legislation would only make matters worse by making legal residents more unwilling to come to the assistance of their immigrant neighbors.

This bill is modeled after the pre-existing federal statute at 8 U.S.C. § 1324.  In other words, this is already federal law, and is being enforced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Mr. Perry apparently doesn’t believe the federal government is doing a good enough job and wants to expend state money and resources to enforce these laws as well.  

Besides being a waste of our taxpayer dollars and limited law enforcement resources, this legislation is pre-empted by federal law.  The federal government has created a comprehensive scheme for enforcement of such immigration penalties, and states may not enter the field and impose their own regulations and penalties.

It is also worth noting that the proposed legislation changes the language of the federal legislation it is modeled after, and creates a presumption that an alien is undocumented as along as the “United States government” says so.  Of course, the United States government is comprised of many different agencies, most of which have no authority to determine the immigration status of an individual.  

Perhaps this broad language is intended to allow the Social Security Administration to determine an immigrant’s status simply by running the individual’s social security number through their system.  This concept has been unilaterally rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, because it is highly inaccurate and unreliable.  

I urge each and every reader to inform their local representatives that they oppose this legislation, and any other attempt by the state to regulate immigration.  

Efforts such as these are not productive in reducing undocumented immigration, but only serve to further disenfranchise our immigrant populations, many of whom are already heavily segregated from our communities.  

Posts analyzing the other anti-immigrant bills being proposed this legislative session will be forthcoming.

3 comments to Anti-Immigrant Legislation Being Proposed this Legislative Session

  • John Huntley

    I think this is a great service for Montana.

    I am a Baker, Montana lawyer and handle family immigration cases mostly out of Singapore. But have found, to my suprise, even in Montana, there is a urgent need for good immigration lawyers. What makes it esp difficult here in Montana, is that there are so few lawyers dedicated to the practice, and traditional organizations that assist immigrants in the SW US and larger cities, are for the most part absent here in Montana.

    Way to go!!! The best of luck.

    John Huntley

  • Illegal aliens are marginalized because they are committing a crime by being in this country. I don’t see any sort of Fed response in Montana, they are spread too thin and are generally useless. Giving the state responsibility (and the authority to charge) wouldn’t be a bad thing, and I’m not understanding the conflict. In other areas, where there are both Fed/State and perhaps even local statutes and penalties, it works itself out though I admit I’m no lawyer.

    Also, immigration status would seem to be very simple to find out… IF all immigrants were required to have some sort of card or something- oh wait! They are!! If they don’t have their card on them, then I would think that the question would be a very easy one to answer. And before you freak out about penalizing someone who lost theirs or forgot it- I would point out that in other countries, there is no such leeway, AND if you knew something to carry that much importance, you would guard it with your life. I know there are loopholes, and not everyone carries even ID on them, but this shouldn’t be complicated.

  • Mr. Huntley: Thank you for your support, it is much appreciated. I am very glad to be of service here in Montana. I do take pro bono cases as well, so please let me know if you hear of anyone who is in need of assistance.

    Lt. Ripley: Thank you for your post. It is a common misconception that undocumented aliens are committing an ongoing criminal violation by being present here in the country without status. This is not true. As is the case with a lot of immigration issues, the facts are more complicated. I’ll be posting about this issue shortly.

    You also raise the point that immigrants are required by law to carry a “card” to prove status. You are likely referring to the rarely referenced or enforced provision in 8 U.S.C. 1304(e). In actuality, only legal permanent residents are given cards. Non-permanent immigrant visitors, including those on employment visas that may last for years, are not issued any sort of card. I will post about this issue in more detail as well.

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