Contact Us: (406) 282-1492

News

Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance Prevails in Challenge to Anti-Immigrant Law!

Victory Against LR-121On Friday, Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of the First Judicial District Court struck down the vast majority of Montana’s voter-approved law requiring state agencies to determine an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status before granting a wide variety of state services. The decision can be downloaded here. The law would have required denial of unemployment insurance benefits, licenses to practice trades or professions, enrollment in state universities, crime victim services, and infant hearing screenings to those who cannot prove their citizenship or immigration status.

The referendum, which was presented to Montana voters in the November 2012 election, passed with almost 80 percent of the vote. Before the law went into effect, the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”) brought a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath, the President of the organization and an immigration attorney with the Border Crossing Law Firm, served as MIJA’s lead attorney in the lawsuit. The Montana Attorney General’s office defended the law, with former Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke serving as lead counsel on the case.

Judge Sherlock ruled in MIJA’s favor, holding that the mandates upon state agencies to determine immigration status, and deny a wide variety of state services to “illegal aliens,” are preempted by federal law as an impermissible regulation of immigration.

“This law was intended to make the state of Montana an unwelcoming place for immigrants. Striking down this law is a significant victory, and a message that the state has no business trying to regulate federal immigration policy,” Mr. Haque-Hausrath said. “In this ruling, the court has prevented the state from engaging in misguided efforts to enforce federal immigration laws, which the state is neither qualified nor authorized to do.”

This law would have placed added burdens on all Montanans to prove citizenship, but would have especially burdened immigrants.

The only provision of the law that was allowed to stand is one that partially corresponds to federal law, and permits communication between state employees and the federal government regarding a person’s immigration status. “Without the right to deny state services based on a determination that an applicant is unlawfully remaining in the country, this provision should not be significant. Now that state agencies are not required to check into immigration status, they should have nothing to report to the federal government,” Haque-Hausrath said.

Judge Sherlock had previously granted a partial preliminary junction in March 2013, and had denied two separate motions brought by the state to dismiss the lawsuit.

Brian Miller of Morrison, Sherwood, Wilson & Deola, PLLP served as co-counsel in this litigation, providing invaluable litigation support on a pro bono basis.

Copies of the ruling, as well as other materials, can be downloaded here: www.mija.org

MIJA Asks for Summary Judgment in its Lawsuit Against LR-121

LR-121 Cover PhotoIn 2012, the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”) filed a lawsuit in Montana’s First Judicial District Court to challenge LR-121, Montana’s anti-immigrant law. In March 2013, after conducting depositions and investigating the issues, we asked Judge Sherlock for summary judgment on grounds that LR-121 is preempted by federal law. Summary judgment is a mechanism to bypass a trial, if there are no genuine issues of fact in dispute, and judgment can be entered as a matter of law. The Montana Attorney General also asked the Judge for judgment in its favor.

We have completed extensive briefing. In all, there were four lengthy briefs submitted:

MIJA’s motion for summary judgment, and exhibits (including deposition transcripts).

The Montana AG’s response, and cross-motion for summary judgment.

MIJA’s reply in support of summary judgment and response to the AG’s motion.

The Montana AG’s final reply in support of their own motion.

Yesterday, we had a hearing before Judge Sherlock on both parties’ motions for summary judgment. The AP wrote a story about the hearing. The hearing went well, and we will await a decision as soon as Judge Sherlock can get to it. We believe we have proven that LR-121 is preempted by federal law.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath of the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. is representing the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”) on a pro bono basis in its lawsuit to challenge Montana’s anti-immigrant law. You can read more about LR-121 and what it does here.

Help prevent deportation of a Missoula domestic violence victim!

VAWA Smaller imageTell DOJ and DHS that the victim of violent assault shouldn’t be deported based on a “tip” from the abuser!

By Shahid Haque-Hausrath, President and Immigration Attorney

My client, who has been living in the U.S. for over 18 years, is facing deportation and separation from her four U.S. citizen children. Working together with the convicted abuser who strangled my client in public and pled guilty to it, the U.S. Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigated and ultimately arrested my client, not the perpetrator of the crime. Within a span of months, my client went from being the victim of assault, to being charged criminally for “possession or use” of a fake green card, taken into custody for 90 days, having her children taken away from her, and being ordered deported by ICE without judicial oversight. This happened in late 2010. I’ve been fighting ever since to keep her here.

The evidence shows that ICE colluded with the abusive ex-spouse throughout their investigation. They relied on him for the initial “tip”, met with him on multiple occasions afterwards, used him as the “source” for purposes of obtaining a warrant for her arrest, and even advised him ahead of time on the day that they would be arresting my client, so he could assume custody of the children beforehand.

The abusive ex-spouse’s intended purpose in reporting my client was to ensure her removal, so she was unable to pursue further criminal action against him, and so he could assume custody of their children by default. DHS not only ignored the fact that they were playing right into the hands of an abuser’s goals, but also refused to change course once this was directly pointed out. DHS has now given the violent ex-spouse exactly what he wanted — insulation from criminal charges for his misconduct.

The Department of Homeland Security admits that my client was the victim of a long term pattern of violence. Abused spouses of U.S. citizens can apply for relief under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”). They also qualify for “U visas” for cooperating with law enforcement in prosecuting a crime. We have applied for both. So far, DHS has stated its intention to deny both forms of relief. The reason? They have decided to deny her relief as a victim of crime based on conduct that happened because she was a victim of crime.

DHS would deny a U visa or relief under VAWA to the female victim of assault just because she “possessed or used” a false alien registration card — the card being necessary only because her abusive ex-spouse refused to petition for her immigration status despite being married for over five years. Meanwhile, he refused to hold down a job and required her to be the primary provider for their young children.

All of this is directly contrary to the federal government’s stated goals and priorities. The U visa is intended to allow a victim to cooperate with law enforcement in pursuing justice. Congress intended to empower undocumented victims of crime to cooperate with law enforcement, but DHS wrongly prioritized criminal charges against the victim of assault over pursuit of the abuser himself.

Further, DHS allowed an abusive spouse to orchestrate matters so that the victim was no longer able to obtain a conviction against him. VAWA regulations contemplate the fact that an abusive spouse may attempt to have a non-citizen spouse deported, and prohibits ICE from doing precisely what it did in this instance — cooperate with the abuser and deport the victim.

We must send a message to DHS that they got their priorities wrong, and that nothing is to be served by deporting this victim of assault, separating her form her children, and placing them into the custody of the abuser.

Please sign this petition and contact the officials in DHS who can put a stop to this! You should reference Case No. EAC-14-027-50697.

  • ICE Contact: Matt Murphy, Assistant Field Office Director, Click to e-mail
  • USCIS Contact: Laura B. Zuchowski, Acting Center Director, Click to e-mail

 

More information:

Article in the Missoula Independent Newspaper

Article from the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. Website

Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Montana Highway Patrol

MHP-2569-630x384On October 7, 2013, the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”) and four representative plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana against Colonel Tom Butler, sued in his official capacity as acting Chief Administrator of the Montana Highway Patrol, and Attorney General Tim Fox, sued in his official capacity as head of the Montana Department of Justice.

Click to download the complaint and its supporting exhibits.

The lawsuit alleges that Montana Highway Patrol has a policy and practice of seizing Latino drivers or passengers that a patrol officer may believe to be in the country without authorization for a prolonged period of time, often between forty minutes to two hours. The sole basis for detaining these individuals is to make contact with the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to ascertain their immigration status and determine if an immigration enforcement officer wishes to assume custody of them.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath is President of MIJA and the lead attorney handling the case. “For years, Montana Highway Patrol officers have been acting like de facto immigration enforcement agents. They have been pulling Latino residents and visitors over for routine traffic infractions, and detaining them without probable cause just to check on their immigration status,” Mr. Haque-Hausrath said.

“This policy is discriminatory because patrol officers are using race and ethnicity as a basis for these arrests, and Latino residents and visitors are being unlawfully harassed. The law is clear that Montana Highway Patrol can only arrest people for crimes, and can’t arrest or detain people just to check if they have valid immigration status.”

As alleged in the complaint, at least two former Montana Highway Patrol Chiefs have endorsed this policy. Colonel Michael Tooley defended the legality of this discriminatory behavior, and Colonel Kenton Hickethier actively instructed patrol officers to use pretextual reasons to arrest people if they think they are in the country illegally.

The lawsuit does not seek money damages, but asks the court to declare that this policy is unconstitutional, to enjoin the Montana Highway Patrol from further constitutional violations, and to put safeguards into place to ensure that this discrimination is stopped.

——–

Please click here to donate to support the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”).

and Click here to read about Shahid Haque-Hausrath’s work with the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C.

Thank You, Linda Gryczan: How Gay Rights Pioneers Helped Immigrants in Montana

by Shahid Haque-Hausrath, Immigration Attorney with the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. and President of the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”).

Immigrants who are challenging LR-121, the State of Montana’s new anti-immigrant law, owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneering gay rights advocates who established an important legal precedent that gives marginalized groups legal standing to challenge laws that threaten to deprive them of their rights.

In 1993, Linda Gryczan led a legal challenge to Montana’s “deviate sexual conduct” statute, which criminalized consensual, private, same-gender sex between adults. In bringing this lawsuit against the State of Montana, she and her five colleagues broke new ground — this was well before the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas reshaped the law regarding private same-sex relationships. (In fact, their case was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in that decision.)

Under the law Gryczan challenged, sex between two consenting adults was a felony, with a possible 10 year prison term or a $50,000 fine. The discriminatory law was enacted in 1977, and although there were no reported instances of any arrests or prosecutions under the law, the threat of enforcement constantly loomed over the plaintiffs. They were made to feel like criminals and second-class residents of the state they called home.

The State of Montana asked the Judge to dismiss Gryczan’s lawsuit, arguing that these plaintiffs lacked legal standing to bring the constitutional challenge. The state argued that the statute had not yet been enforced against anyone, so there was no immediate threatened injury, and that “the mere apprehension of prosecution or the fact that a person may feel denigrated by the law is not sufficient.”

Essentially, the state was arguing that an unconstitutional law could remain on the books, serving as a constant threat that one could be deprived of their rights at any time, but no one could challenge the law until the state actually enforced it against them. In 1997, the Montana Supreme Court rejected the state’s assertion, finding that Gryczan and her colleagues were directly targeted by the law, and even if it had not yet been used against them, they had standing to challenge it based on the threatened injury.

Nevertheless, this familiar argument by the State of Montana was exactly the same one that members of the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”) faced after they brought their legal challenge to Montana’s new anti-immigrant law.

LR-121 was a referendum asking if voters were for or against denying certain state services to illegal aliens. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Howard (R-Park City), LR-121 was meant as “a deterrent, so that people will not focus on Montana as a place to come, take our jobs, take our benefits, and live here.”

The law ostensibly requires all Montanans to present proof of citizenship or lawful resident status before accessing state services, meaning that for the first time in Montana’s history, the state would be requiring all residents to start showing their papers before they can access basic state services. This is a massive undertaking. However, no effort has been made to uniformly apply this law, leading to the likelihood that only those Montanans who look or sound different will be asked to prove their status. LR-121 would also violate federal law by denying services to lawful permanent residents who illegally entered the country, but later fixed their immigration status and are now residing here legally. And, the law asks state agencies to misuse a federal database to determine immigration status — despite the fact that federal laws prohibit the database from being used this way — and report applicants to the federal government for deportation proceedings.

LR-121 has created fear and anxiety in the immigrant communities in Montana, amongst both documented and undocumented residents. Eleven members of MIJA who would be denied state services under this law came forward and challenged its constitutionality. However, Attorney General Tim Fox’s office filed a motion to dismiss this lawsuit, making the same arguments that Linda Gryczan faced over a 15 years earlier. The state argued that our claims were speculative because no state agency had yet denied anyone state services under this law, and that we had to wait until that happened to challenge the law.

In our response brief, we were able to draw a direct parallel between Gryczan and the immigrants affected by LR-121. Judge Sherlock agreed with us and rejected the state’s attempt to dismiss our lawsuit, finding that Gryczan had directly addressed this issue in her lawsuit many years ago:

In Gryczan, a group of homosexuals brought a constitutional challenge against Montana’s deviant sexual conduct statute. The statute was not being enforced against any of the plaintiffs, and there was no indication there was a credible threat that it would be applied against them. Further, the court record indicated that no one had ever been prosecuted under the statute. The Supreme Court noted that the key fact was that the statute in question was only 24 years old and had recently been amended. In the instant case, it is important to note that LR-121 was passed in November 2012. With the passage of such a recent enactment, one could say it is reasonable to assume that it will be enforced.

Of further note to the Gryczan court was the fact that the plaintiffs were precisely the type of people the statute was designed to affect. Here, exactly the same situation obtains, especially as to the affidavits filed by Plaintiffs of various individuals who illegally entered the United States, but are now lawfully present in this country. The Gryczan court found that the plaintiffs’ reasonable fear of prosecution was enough to grant them standing under these circumstances. Another factor considered by the Gryczan court was that to deny the plaintiffs standing would be to immunize the statute from review.

The court found that “each of the factors mentioned above apply in this case” and denied the State of Montana’s attempt to dismiss our lawsuit.

Linda Gryczan won her lawsuit over 15 years ago, and the “deviate sexual conduct” statute was blocked. However, the Montana Legislature refused to take the obsolete and unenforceable language off the books until this year.

The lasting impact of Gryczan’s lawsuit has been felt not only by the LGBT community, but by all marginalized groups who are targeted by legislation that will deprive them of their rights. Thanks to Linda Gryczan and her co-plaintiffs, it is well-established under Montana law that groups who are targeted by discriminatory legislation can immediately challenge laws that threaten them, and don’t have to allow the laws to sit on the books — creating intentional fear and uncertainty — until the state chooses to enforce them.

———

The litigation against LR-121 is being done on a pro bono basis by Brian J. Miller of Morrison, Sherwood, Wilson and Deola PLLP, and Shahid Haque-Hausrath of the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. We are proud to stand up against LR-121. Please consider sending us a donation to support this lawsuit.

Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss, Lawsuit Against LR-121 to Continue!

LR-121 Cover Photo

Victory in Motion to Dismiss

Judge Sherlock has rejected the Montana Attorney General’s efforts to dismiss our lawsuit, and has ruled that the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (MIJA) has standing to challenge LR-121 on behalf of its members, who have a reasonable fear that the law will be used to wrongly deny them benefits.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath of the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. is representing the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”) in a lawsuit to challenge Montana’s new anti-immigrant law called LR-121. You can read all about the law and what it does here.

Over ten members of MIJA, all of whom were also represented by Shahid Haque-Hausrath in immigration proceedings, came forward to tell the court how they would be impacted by LR-121. Despite protests from the Montana AG’s office, the court held that these MIJA members had reasonable fears that LR-121 could violate their rights, and thus can move forward with their legal challenge.

As reported in the Great Falls Tribune:

A district judge has ruled that a lawsuit aimed at blocking the implementation of a new immigration law can move forward.

The Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance is seeking to overturn LR 121, a voter-approved ballot initiative that requires proof of legal standing for any applicant for state services, employment with a state agency, issuance of a state license or permit, unemployment or disability benefits, enrollment as a student or student aid.

The law applies a definition of “illegal alien,” which attorneys for MIJA argue could unconstitutionally prevent certain legal citizens from receiving services from unemployment benefits to crime-victim assistance.

Lawyers for Attorney General Tim Fox’s office are defending the law in court. The state asked the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs lack the legal standing to bring the lawsuit because the law had not yet been implemented or used.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock on Wednesday denied the state’s motion to dismiss. Sherlock said clients represented by MIJA, the lead plaintiff in the case, have reasonable fear that LR 121 could adversely affect them.

Eight documented immigrants signed affidavits in the case saying they came into the country illegally, but are now legal residents. Lawyers for MIJA said under LR 121 those individuals who are legally allowed to be in the United States could unfairly be denied state benefits or services based on the existing definition of “illegal alien” contained in the voter-approved ballot initiative.

“We view the judge’s decision as an unqualified victory for the plaintiffs,” MIJA attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath said. “There’s now no further obstacle to determining the constitutionality of LR 121. We’re going to have the right to ask the state how they plan to implement the law, what training they plan to give to their employees who will be charged with making determinations under the law, and how they can possibly implement this law without violating the Montana and United State constitutions.”

The State has yet to explain how they can enforce this law without violating the Montana and U.S. Constitutions, and had sought to avoid answering these questions by simply dismissing the lawsuit. However, now that their argument has been rejected, the State must answer these important questions as we move forward.

You can download a copy of the Judge’s order here.

Judge Grants Partial Preliminary Injunction, Limiting LR-121′s Reach

LR-121 Cover Photo

LR-121 Cover PhotoJudge Jeffrey Sherlock has granted a partial preliminary injunction, issuing “limiting constructions” on the ways that the State of Montana can implement LR-121. You can download the order here. This order is significant because it constitutes the first decision in the State of Montana to address the constitutionality of any state-level enforcement of federal immigration laws.

This order recognizes two important failings in the referendum that was referred to Montana voters by the legislature:

  • The state is barred from relying solely on the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (“SAVE”) system to make determinations about a person’s eligibility for benefits. As stated in our Complaint, the SAVE system is simply not meant to be used to make a determination of a person’s legal status in the country, which is precisely what LR-121 calls for. The court held that it “would be inappropriate for the State to merely rely on the SAVE program to make its determination.” Now, if the state wants to utilize the SAVE system, it must do so in conjunction with a lawful method of verifying a person’s citizenship or immigration status. This leaves some unanswered questions about exactly what methods the state will use, but constitutes a shift in the way the state had planned to implement the law.
  • The court has stricken unconstitutional language from the definition of “illegal alien” under the law. As we argued, LR-121 conflicts with federal law by saying that anyone who illegally entered the country is an “illegal alien” and will be denied state services — even if they now have green cards. Last week we filed nine affidavits from immigrants who illegally entered the United States, but do not illegally remain in the United States, and challenged how LR-121 would impact them. The court recognized that this definition conflicts with federal laws, and found “it appropriate that a preliminary injunction be issued to prevent the implementation of the offending language of LR-121.”

The court concluded its order by stating: “There are obvious deficiencies in LR 121 that should be addressed by the legislature. If not, this Court will address them as this case moves forward.”

It is important to note that when issuing this decision, the court did not yet have an opportunity to review or consider the arguments from our recent response to the state’s motion to dismiss.

This preliminary injunction now alters the manner that the state can apply the law while this lawsuit is pending. Meanwhile, the remainder of the litigation continues forward.

You can read the Associated Press coverage here.

As a reminder: This litigation is being done on a pro bono basis by Brian J. Miller of Morrison, Motl and Sherwood, PLLP, and Shahid Haque-Hausrath of the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. (also President of MIJA).

We are proud to stand up against LR-121. This litigation is costly and time-consuming, and we need your help. Please consider sending us a donation to support this lawsuit.

 

Contact Our Senators to Support Immigration Reform – No Excuses for a Wrong Vote!

We Are Here

We Are Here

This year, we have a unique opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation to finally fix blatant gaps in coverage and provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants — including thousands who live here in Montana. However, we need your help!

Despite voting incorrectly on other immigration bills that reached their desks, we have every reason to believe that Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester are openly considering the bipartisan legislation that will soon be making its way through Congress. Unfortunately, they are hearing frequently from vocal anti-immigrant activists.

We need to counter their messaging with our own request for fair and humane immigration policies, including a pathway to citizenship!

Please contact our Senators today!

Senator Max Baucus

(202) 224-2652

E-mail Senator Baucus

and

Senator Jon Tester

(202) 224-2644

E-mail Senator Tester

While we actively encourage our members and allies to contact our Senators, we also want to be clear — passing comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do for Montana and for the country. It is also an idea that has bipartisan support. Indeed, even conservatives like Shawn Hannity, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul are supporting a path to legalize the status of immigrants who are here in the country illegally.

The correct vote on immigration reform should not be dependent on the largest numbers of constituents who call in, and we won’t tolerate this as an excuse for a bad vote. Since 2009, over 26 anti-immigrant bills have been proposed in the Montana Legislature, and Democrats have had the fortitude to take caucus positions opposing these prejudiced laws.

If every single Democrat in the Montana Legislature can do the right thing despite public sentiment to the contrary, so can our Senators.

According to 2010 census statistics, about 2% of Montana’s population was born outside the United States (20,031 people). About 57% of them (or 11,000 people) are citizens who can vote. The Latino population in Montana has grown to 2.9%, of 28,000 people. These are sizable and important voting blocks, even in the state of Montana.

Over the next several months, we’ll be meeting with our congressional delegations to discuss the need for immigration reform. We hope you will join us in making the voices for immigration reform heard!

Litigation Update: Nine MIJA Members Challenge Being Called “Illegal Aliens” Under LR-121

6297D3F7D6133398AB72C8DF8DE5D182_292_292

6297D3F7D6133398AB72C8DF8DE5D182_292_292We’d like to update you on the progress of the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”)’s lawsuit to challenge and enjoin implementation of LR-121. We filed this lawsuit along with our co-Plaintiffs MEA-MFT and Alisha Blair (a 22 year old U.S. citizen who would be caught up in this scheme because she does not have proof of her citizenship).

On February 7th, the Honorable Judge Jeffrey Sherlock held a hearing on our request to enjoin the law, so that it cannot be enforced while our lawsuit is pending. Plaintiff Alisha Blair courageously testified about how LR-121 would affect her . She was joined by Andrea Carlson, a member of MIJA who was recently in removal proceedings until immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath proved her citizenship. Ms. Carlson was recently in the news herself when she took her oath of citizenship.

As of today, no decision has been made on our request to enjoin LR-121. In the meantime, the State of Montana filed a motion to dismiss our lawsuit for lack of standing — contending that the Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that anyone would be harmed by LR-121.

Today, we filed our response to challenge the state’s assertions, attaching affidavits of nine MIJA members who came forward to tell the court how they would be injured by LR-121. These affidavits share compelling stories about the real human beings who will be caught up in this badly designed law. Several of these members entered the United States illegally, but went through long and difficult processes to get their green cards. They now live here legally with their families. Nevertheless, LR-121 conflicts with federal law by saying that anyone who illegally entered the country is an “illegal alien” and will be denied state services — even if they now have green cards.

At our main litigation page, you can download copies of the complaint and briefs. You can also learn more about the basis for our legal challenge, asserting the violation of the right to privacy, violation of due process, violation of the equal protection clause, and preemption by federal law.

This litigation is being done on a pro bono basis by Brian J. Miller of Morrison, Motl and Sherwood, PLLP, and Shahid Haque-Hausrath of the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. (also President of MIJA).

We are proud to stand up against LR-121. This litigation is costly and time-consuming, and we need your help. Please consider sending us a donation to support this lawsuit.

Stay tuned for more updates as this litigation develops!

Montana Resident Facing Deportation Proves Citizenship

Naturalized-CitizenThis is a crosspost from the Border Crossing Law Firm’s blog:

The U.S. government often tries to deport U.S. citizens. This is a harsh and inescapable fact, and it is also a difficult one for many people to believe. However, it almost happened right here in the State of Montana. Thankfully, the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. stepped in to prove our client’s citizenship and terminate the deportation proceedings against her. The Immigration Judge just issued a decision ordering that the deportation process be stopped because we established U.S. citizenship.

Our client was unaware of her U.S. citizenship until Shahid Haque-Hausrath, who represented her in Immigration Court, looked into her family history and discovered that she had automatically become a U.S. citizen at birth. She was married to a U.S. citizen, and obtained a two-year conditional green card through this marriage. However, when the marriage began to falter, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) terminated her status and put her into deportation or “removal” proceedings. Not only was USCIS wrong to try and take away her green card, but we were able to show that she never needed one in the first place, because she is a U.S. citizen.

The client’s father was a native-born U.S. citizen who enlisted in the United States Army when he was only 18 years old, and later re-enlisted in the army only a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served honorably and received several accommodations and citations during his service. He was stationed in England when he met our client’s mother, got married, and had a child — our client.

Under our immigration laws, a child who is born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent may automatically become a U.S. citizen at birth if certain conditions are met. The laws regarding transmission of citizenship have changed many times over the years. To determine acquisition of U.S. citizenship at birth, one looks to the law in place when the person was born. In this case, to transfer citizenship, our client’s father had to have had 10 years of residence in the U.S., at least five of which were after he reached the age of 12.

Military records established these facts very clearly, but the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) nevertheless fought us every step of the way. Since November, we traded six legal briefs arguing the facts and legal issues. Today, we received the Immigration Judge’s decision agreeing with virtually all of our arguments, finding that we proved citizenship, and terminating removal proceedings.

This case highlights one of the reasons that we filed a lawsuit to challenge LR-121, Montana’s “proof of citizenship” referendum. There are many other Montanans like our client who are U.S. citizens but don’t have documentation to prove it. Under LR-121, they could be wrongly denied state services that they are entitled to, and the law doesn’t provide any way that they can appeal the denial of these services.

Our client is overjoyed with the news. After over a year of anxiety while facing deportation, she can finally rest easy. And, of course, she can fully enjoy all the rights and privileges of being a U.S. citizen.