After President Obama’s appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, many in the media referred to Judge Sotomayor as the daughter of immigrant parents. However, this characterization appears to be incorrect.
Judge Sotomayor’s parents are Puerto Rican. Puerto Rico is a self-governing “unincorporated territory” of the United States, and has been since the Spanish-American War. Since 1917, people born in Puerto Rico have automatically acquired U.S. citizenship. Oddly, they cannot vote in federal elections so long as they reside in Puerto Rico, but they can vote when they reside in the incorporated United States.
Because Judge Sotomayor’s parents appear to have been born in Puerto Rico, they were U.S. citizens at birth. As such, they weren’t truly immigrants to the United States. The United States and Puerto Rico have very different cultures, and I’m sure the experiences they had in the United States were similar in many ways to Spanish-speaking immigrants. However, I would argue that a U.S. citizen at birth cannot be characterized as an immigrant to his or her home country.
While Republican lawmakers Gary Perry, Jim Shockley, and David Howard attempted to pass over 10 anti-immigrant bills this legislative session, all of them were ultimately rejected by the Montana legislature. While many of these bills were defeated by only a narrow margin, I am proud of our legislature as a whole for killing these prejudiced and reactionary bills.
This was not an easy battle to win, and I would like to thank everyone who worked tirelessly to make sure that Montana remains a welcoming place for immigrants. Kim Abbott and Jamee Greer at the Montana Human Rights Network spent hours and hours of their time testifying and getting the word out about these bills, despite being spread thin with the countless other human rights issues up for debate this session. Scott Crichton and Niki Zupanic at the ACLU also testified at every single hearing, and their clear, articulate testimony surely played a large role in defeating these bills. Debbie Smith, my mentor and colleague, fought this year — like every year — to protect the rights of immigrants in this State. Kelsen Young with the Montana Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence provided important testimony on the effect many of these bills would have on victims of domestic violence. Jorge Quintana and many other individuals provided difficult testimony on how these bills would affect them personally.
I would also like to thank Colonel Mike Tooley, Chief Administrator of the Montana Highway Patrol, for taking a strong interest in ensuring that racial profiling does not occur on his watch. His dedication is very admirable, and much appreciated.
Thanks again to everyone who lobbied with us, and to the legislators who worked with us to ensure that these harmful bills were not passed. I’ll see everyone again next session.