Montana Proof of Citizenship Question, LR-121 (2012)
|Proof of Citizenship Question|
|State code:||Title 1, chapter 1, part 4; MCA|
|Referred by:||Montana State Legislature|
The measure was overturned by Judge Jeffrey Sherlock on June 23, 2014. The judge said that most of the measure was unenforceable and pre-empted by federal law. He did let one part of the measure stand however. The statute still requires state authorities to notify the federal government when undocumented residents seek public services.
- See also: 2012 ballot measure election results
The following are unofficial election results:
|Overturned Case:Montana Justice Immigrant Alliance et al. v. Bullock et al. BDV-2012-1042|
Results are certified and final.
Official results via Montana Secretary of State.
Text of measure
The ballot language that voters saw read:
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 121
AN ACT REFERRED BY THE LEGISLATURE
AN ACT DENYING CERTAIN STATE-FUNDED SERVICES TO ILLEGAL ALIENS; ESTABLISHING PROCEDURES FOR DETERMINING A PERSON'S CITIZENSHIP STATUS; PROVIDING THAT THE PROPOSED ACT BE SUBMITTED TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF MONTANA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE AND AN APPLICABILITY DATE.
LR-121 prohibits providing state services to people who are not U.S. citizens and who have unlawfully entered or unlawfully remained in the United States. Under LR-121, every individual seeking a state service, such as applying for any state licenses, state employment, unemployment or disability benefits, or aid for university students, must provide evidence of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status, and/or have their status verified through federal databases. State agencies must notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of noncitizens who have unlawfully entered or remained in the U.S. and who have applied for state services.
The costs associated with verifying U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status will vary by agency and cannot be precisely determined. However, on-going costs may include: hiring and training state personnel to use various federal databases; software, hardware and search charges; and information assessment and management costs.
 FOR denying certain state services to illegal aliens. AGAINST denying certain state services to illegal aliens.
Supporters claimed that the measure was proactive and would help prevent future immigration problems.
- As primary author of the measure, Rep. Howard said, "If you’re an illegal person you can only live two ways: take a job from a Montanan or you have to live on the benefits that we provide. I wanted to create an easy, logical process where our state agencies would go through and be able to create a deterrent for illegal immigrants getting Montana and federal tax money."
- Rep. Milburn argued that even though the state may not have had an identifiable illegal immigrations problem, the measure was about the principle of the matter. In a discussion on Montana Public Radio he compared it to anti-immigration efforts in Georgia and Arizona, saying, "It’s kind of the theory that there’s strength with the more states that jump on board with something like this."
- Opponents of the measure said that checking individuals against a federal database would be far from perfect. They said that such checks could result in citizens being denied services they are legally entitled to.
- The American Civil Liberties Union
- Senator David Wanzenried
- Representative Margie MacDonald
- Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance
- The Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance argued that immigration law enforcement was a task for the federal government and that using state resources to enforce such laws would be costly due to the pay-per-use nature of the federal database used to determine citizenship status.
- Sen. Wanzenried and Rep. MacDonald argued that the measure ran contrary to the state's founding ideas of freedom and independence. The further compared the measure to the proposed national identification card that the state fought against.
- Opponents also argued that the measure was simply unnecessary in Montana because the state does not have a real illegal immigration problem. They said that supporters had not provided proof that illegal immigration was costing the state more than this measure's implementation would.
Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance v. State of Montana
On December 7, 2012, the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance filed a lawsuit against the measure saying that the law unconstitutionally targets immigrants, legal or otherwise. The case was heard by Judge Jeffrey M. Sherlock of the Montana 1st Judicial District Court. The original complaint may be read here.
On May 23, 2013, Judge Sherlock heard a request filed by Montana Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the plaintiffs have no standing due to the fact that there were no known instances of the law being actually enforced since it took effect.
Path to the ballot
Section 8 of Article XIV of the Montana Constitution says that an affirmative roll call vote of two-thirds of all members of the Montana Legislature is required to refer an amendment to the ballot.
- Montana 2012 ballot measures
- 2012 ballot measures
- Montana Legislature
- List of Montana ballot measures
- Montana Legislature, "House Bill 638," accessed July 20, 2011
- Great Falls Tribune, "Court strikes down Montana immigration law," June 23, 2014
- KRTV, "Judge tosses out law targeting illegal aliens in Montana," June 23, 2014
- House Bill 638 (text)
- RoundupWeb.com,"Ballot Measure Would Deny State Services To Illegal Immigrants," October 17, 2012
- Montana Public Radio,"BOTH SIDES: LR 121, denying certain state services to illegal aliens," October 9, 2012
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle,"AGAINST Legislative Referendum 121," accessed October 23, 2012
- Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance's Vote NO on LR-121 campaign website
- Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance website, "Lawsuit Against LR-121"
- Associated Press, "State asks judge to dismiss referendum challenge," May 23, 2013 (dead link)