Posted: Oct 25, 2012 11:14 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Oct 25, 2012 11:48 AM
HELENA - Montana voters are faced with the issue of undocumented immigrants on the November ballot.
The ballot language states that a vote for LR-121 would deny "certain state services to illegal aliens," while a vote against it would grant "certain state services to illegal aliens."
Montana State Representative David Howard (R-Park City) carried the bill which placed the referendum on the ballot; he declined our request to comment on this story.
But according to his statements in the Voter Information Pamphlet, the purpose of the referendum is to "save Montana taxpayers money, honor the rule of law, and deny state and federal taxpayer supported services to? Those unlawfully in the United States."
The Montana Human Rights Network doesn't see it that way, with spokeswoman Kim Abbott saying that this is intended to punish and marginalize the immigrant community in the state.
"Montana has a long history of immigrants being part of our communities, being part of our economy and even helping to build this state. We've been a welcoming state for a very long time," Abbott said.
She added that if the law passes, all Montanans applying for state services will have their identification checked against a national database, which could pose a big problem.
"Both Georgia and Alabama are trying to implement a similar provision right now and what they are seeing is delays in occupational licenses and business licenses."
Abbott also says state employees will have to be trained to recognize legal documents and she doesn't believe that state workers should be serving as federal immigration agents; she adds that there's no proof that undocumented immigrants are abusing the system.
Montana State Senator Jim Shockley (R-Victor) wrote some of the arguments supporting the ballot issue, and he says Montana needs to be proactive.
"I don't believe it's a big problem in this state but it is a big problem in states like Arizona and California and I think it would be a good idea to take preventative action."
Howard and Shockley wrote in the Voter Information Pamphlet: "Illegal aliens can live in Montana two ways. One is to live on our dime by applying for and obtaining services such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, state licenses, and aid to university students. The other is to take jobs from our citizens."
Abbott says those arguments are flawed because they haven't offered proof that it's actually happening.
Click here to read the full text of LR-121 (PDF).
Click here to read the Voter Information Pamphlet (PDF).