Status of Anti-Immigrant Legislation in Montana

February 24, 2009Shahid Haque

Last week was an exceptionally busy one for those of us who have been fighting the suite of anti-immigrant bills that have been proposed this session.  Committee hearings were held every day of the week, and there were ten hearings in all.  I am glad that I was able to testify on each of these bills, and I cannot thank Kim Abbott, Jamee Greer, Debbie Smith, and the ACLU enough for their help.  First, the good news:  Every anti-immigrant bill that originated in the House has been killed.  This is a huge victory, as these bills would have been disastrous for Montana.  In addition, one particularly ridiculous bill from the Senate has been tabled.  Here is the list of anti-immigrant legislation that has died in committee:HB 587:  This bill would have required the Department of Labor to investigate immigration status before issuing a professional or occupational license, and go back and review every single license already on the books.   No evidence has been presented that undocumented aliens are getting professional licenses in Montana.  This bill would have needlessly cost the state time and resources, and it would have resulted in undue scrutiny for minority business owners.  The Business and Labor committee wisely tabled this bill, which was sponsored by David Howard.HB 496:  This bill would have encouraged citizens to waste law enforcement time and resources by making complaints about employees that they suspect to be unauthorized aliens, and then required law enforcement to investigate each and every complaint regardless of whether they appeared to have any merit.  This would have had incredibly negative consequences for minority employees, who could be subjected to police investigations without any legitimate basis.  It would also have wasted law enforcement time and resources.  The Business and Labor committee tabled this bill, which was also sponsored by David Howard.HB 554:  This incredibly misguided bill would have required the state to investigate the immigration status of children in foster care and deport them.  I wrote about this bill earlier.   The Judiciary committee tabled this bill mere hours after hearing oral testimony on the offensive bill.  This resulted in a shutout for Representative David Howard’s anti-immigrant bills.  HB 556:  This bill would have required the state to use the federal E-Verify program for all state contractors.  E-Verify is not ready for widespread deployment and has far too many errors, especially when dealing with non-citizens.  Implementing this program would have resulted in far too many legitimate workers losing employment opportunities.  The State Administration committee wisely chose to wait until this program was ready for primetime and tabled the bill, which was sponsored by Gary MacLaren.SB 380:  This bill would have required the county treasurer’s office to investigate immigration status and deny motor vehicle registration to undocumented immigrants.  The bill would have only had one effect:  less accurate motor vehicle registrations.  Rather than throwing their hands in the air and going home, undocumented immigrants would simply register in other people’s names or not register at all.  The Senate Judiciary committee tabled the bill.Now the bad news.  Three bills sponsored by Shockley have made it out of committee and passed 2nd reading on a floor vote.  Votes were almost entirely based on party lines — Republicans in favor, and Democrats against.  I’ll be posting more on each of these bills in the coming days.SB 381:  This bill would require the state to enter into a costly Memorandum of Understanding so that the Highway Patrol can be deputized as ICE agents and enforce immigration laws.  This was sponsored by Shockley and passed by Senate Judiciary.SB 382:  This bill would require the state to “cooperate with” the federal government in immigration investigations without receiving any compensation for doing so.  It also allows crazies to sue to force the state to do the federal government’s job.  This was sponsored by Shockley and passed by Senate Judiciary.SB 379:  This bill was discussed in a previous post.  It was sponsored by Gary Perry and passed by Senate Judiciary.I will be posting more on the significant harm that would be caused by the remaining bills.  So long as the Democratic caucus holds, as it has been, these bills will never survive the House.

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