For those few readers who don’t make Fox News Latino a daily staple, I wanted to pass along some recent news documented there. The story involves an exciting constitutional vein discovered under the scenic natural vistas of Montana.
Montana state officials are not allowed to report the immigration status of people seeking state services, the state’s high court ruled on Tuesday.
In a unanimous decision, the court struck down the last piece of a voter-approved law meant to deter undocumented immigrants from living and working in the “Treasure State.” It upholds a 2014 ruling stating that the law denying unemployment benefits, university enrollment and other services to people who are in the country illegally was unconstitutional.
It’s fascinating to watch terms that previously enjoyed a broad social consensus evolve to highly specialized uses. Unconstitutional used to mean something at plain odds with a section of visible text in the constitution. That it now means insufficiently liberal or contrary to the meanderings of Anthony Kennedy is a subtlety I think few people fully appreciate.
That is unless one wishes to stand on the presumption that 18th century colonial Englishmen conceived a governmental framework in a manner to ensure their posterity would be obliged to subsidize the incursions of parasitic Mayan squatters. I suppose it’s possible, though the preamble and Federalist Papers are both coyly silent as to the intent. Fortunately that piece of paper’s penumbras are not at all so reticent, and provide modern jurists with a generously well-lit path.
The Montana Supreme went further, rejecting the one remaining position that required state workers to report to federal immigration officials the names of applicants who are in the U.S. undocumented.
“The risk of inconsistent and inaccurate judgments issuing from a multitude of state agents untrained in immigration law and unconstrained by any articulated standards is evident,” Justice Patricia Cotter wrote in the opinion.
I do hope Fox Latino is translated into Chinese. For our inscrutable yellow friends must be smirking under their sedge hats at this. It is unconstitutional to inform immigration officials of matters pertaining directly to their function. More egregious still, state agents are allegedly untrained in making phone calls and “unconstrained by any articulated standards” for doing so. The risk of “inconsistent and inaccurate judgements” is simply too great. So the vacated whole of Central America is just going to have to be accommodated at your expense. Or are you perfectly willing to live with inarticulate standards weighing on your conscience? Well the Montana Supreme Court is not. And the Constitution is their guide…or something like that.
The Montana Legislature sent the anti-immigrant measure to the 2012 ballot, where it was approved by 80 percent of voters. The new law required state officials to check the immigration status of applicants for unemployment insurance benefits, crime victim services, professional or trade licenses, university enrollment and financial aid and services for the disabled, among other things.
The law required state officials to deny services to people found to be in the country illegally, and to turn over their names to immigration officials for possible deportation proceedings. The law used the term “illegal aliens,” which is not found in federal immigration laws and became the focal point of the lower and higher courts’ rulings.
It defined “illegal alien” as a person who is not a U.S. citizen who unlawfully entered or unlawfully remained in the United States. In the lawsuit brought by the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, several plaintiffs said they arrived in the U.S. illegally but have since obtained permanent residence status.
They argued they would still be considered “illegal aliens” under the state law, even though the Department of Homeland Security considers them lawful immigrants.
The courts ruled the state was attempting to meddle in an area of federal jurisdiction using a term that is unconstitutional because it conflicts with the federal laws.
It’s probably sheer pedantry to hold simple supreme court justices to a highly technical application of terms. Though one of the little-known aspects of federal laws in America is that they must be passed in a bicameral legislature and subsequently signed by the executive (unless his veto is overruled). This isn’t actually what took place. And the fact that Obama issued a directive to the DHS instructing it to ignore federal law does not constitute a federal law in and of itself. But perhaps his standards in doing so were sufficiently well-articulated to satisfy the Montana court.
And so again the people’s primal scream is squelched by a condescending star chamber that finds its expediencies in legal astrology. An 80% referendum flushed away with only a peremptory sneer. The concept of judicial review has become one of the most pernicious elements of our national decline. No wonder it was the court itself that granted the privilege.