A judge in Montana this week ruled that a law approved by voters two years ago was unconstitutional. The law ‒ Legislative Referendum 121 ‒ attempted to put a limit on how much money could be spent on undocumented immigrants by denying them the right to get any kind of federal income, such as a federally-subsidized assistance program or a government job.
Legislative Referendum 121 ultimately called for a very large database to be created and enacted that would hold information about the citizenship status of people in Montana and would be checked if someone applied for welfare or a government job. If the person was an undocumented immigrant, this information would be given to immigration authorities.
The referendum was voted in by a landslide back in 2012, with almost 80% of voters in Montana supporting it; however, an immigration advocacy group challenged it almost immediately and the law was never enforced. The Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance sued to block the law, led by Montana immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath. The case was presided over by Judge Jeffrey Sherlock from Helena, Montana, who ultimately ruled that the law was unconstitutional as it gives a definition of an undocumented immigrant that is not based in federal law.
After the ruling, Attorney General Tim Fox’s spokesman, John Barnes, would not be drawn about whether his office would appeal the decision, saying that it was too soon to say.