Montana Legislature

Mar 16, 2013 11:21 AM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News

Illegal immigration bill debated in Helena

HELENA - House Bill 297 was heard Friday by the Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee.

Opponents of the measure say the bill that would make it against the law to employ illegal aliens is a platform for racial profiling.

A statistic from the Federation for American Immigration Reform said that in 2010 there were an estimated 5,000 illegal immigrants in Montana. Those that violate the law will have their business licenses suspended until they terminate the employee.

"This is a deterrent bill. This is a deterrent to try to keep illegal aliens, illegal unauthorized aliens from coming to Montana and taking our jobs," said Rep. David Howard (R-Park City).

There were representatives in support of the bill from the Montana Retail Association, the Montana Contractors Association, and the Montana Automobile Dealers Association saying the bill

"[This] validates the businesses that are performing, good, positive, legal employment practices already with their companies," stated Kalispell Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Mark Baker.

"I would ask all of you to consider how often do you know somebody's immigration status? I think more often you might have a suspicion. You might have heard a rumor," said immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath.

Haque-Hausrath estimated in his testimony that the biggest number of illegal aliens in the Montana work force are Canadians, but that its much easier for those individuals to blend in.

"Maybe it's based on the color of their skin, maybe it's based on the fact that you see them speaking Spanish all the time. But unless you have actual knowledge that somebody is here without legal status, then I have a real problem with a complaint triggering this entire mechanism."

But Howard says, claims need more than that. "You have to have the who what when where and how. You have to know what you're talking about. We always think of frivolous complaint like 'we're going to call and send an email to somebody and say he's hiring illegal aliens' that's going to start something. That doesn't start anything."

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