State officials in Montana have been banned from reporting the immigration status of individuals looking to access state services by the Montana Supreme Court; a move that marks the striking down of the final aspect of a law that was approved by voters to try to deter undocumented immigrants from residing in Montana.
The court reached a unanimous decision on the matter on Tuesday, upholding a 2014 ruling by a Helena judge that it was unconstitutional to deny services, such as university enrollment and unemployment benefits, to undocumented immigrants. The justices went even further than that, however, rejecting the last remaining provision of the law that required undocumented immigrant applicants to be reported to federal immigration authorities by state workers.
Justice Patricia Cotter wrote that there was too high a risk of inaccurate and inconsistent judgments being reached by various state agents who have no training in the ins and outs of immigration law, particularly when the law appeared to offer no articulated standards that they would have to meet. 80 percent of voters approved the anti-immigrant measure when it was sent to a ballot by the Montana Legislature in 2012.
The Supreme Court says that the state was trying to meddle in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction and that federal immigration laws pre-empt their own. Shahid Haque-Hausrath, the attorney for the plaintiffs, says the laws were discriminatory toward immigrants and that even immigrants with valid federal immigration status would have been unjustly targeted by them.