Know Your November Ballot: Undocumented Immigrants

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Ms. will be outlining state ballot initiatives and referenda of major significance to women.

Since the spring of 2010, when Arizona enacted S.B. 1070 (the harshest immigration law in the country), lawmakers and immigrant rights advocates have worked both to weaken the controversial law and to ensure that the rights of immigrants are protected elsewhere. In June 2012 the Supreme Court blocked much of the Arizona law on the grounds that it interfered with the federal government’s ability to determine immigration policy, but upheld the provision requiring state police to determine the immigration status of any person they stop or arrest if they have any reason to suspect the person may be in the country illegally.

June 2012 continued to bring positive developments. On June 15, the Obama administration announced that it will provide “deferred action” to immigrants who entered the United States as children and who meet a series of requirements that would allow them to temporarily stay in the country without risk of deportation. This action will help undocumented youth remain in the U.S. while they await a more longterm solution promised by the proposed DREAM Act.

In the upcoming November election, voters will make life-altering decisions affecting undocumented immigrants at the state level, either extending their rights or diminishing them. If you live in Montana or Maryland, the following issues will be on your ballot:


Montana: Legislative Referendum 121

Referendum 121 would deny state services such as financial aid, state licenses and disability aid to undocumented immigrants. Under this legislation, any individual seeking a state service–such as unemployment, disability benefits or aid for university students–must provide evidence of U.S. citizenship. If the person seeking services is not a citizen, he or she must provide proof of lawful immigrant status or have his or her status verified through a federal database.

If the referendum passes, state agencies will be required to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of immigrants who have entered or remain in the country without documentation and who have applied for state services.



Maryland: Question 4

Question 4 is a referendum petition on a newly passed state DREAM Act. If passed, it would establish in-state tuition fees at community colleges in Maryland for all individuals living in Maryland, including undocumented immigrants, provided that the student meets specific conditions regarding attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school. It would also make such students eligible to pay in-state tuition fees at four-year public colleges or universities if they have completed 60 credit hours at, or graduated from, a Maryland community college.

In addition to providing in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, Question 4 would extend the time during which honorably discharged veterans qualify for in-state tuition rates.



Flickr photo by the Korean Resource Center via Creative Commons 3.0.


  1. Looking for feedback. I’m not completely up to speed on undocumented immigrants and the formalities of it all, but do undocumented immigrants pay taxes? I mean, I have to list a social security number on mine so if you’re undocumented, I assume you can’t right? Also, as far as social programs such as unemployment benefits and disability benefits, employees eventually qualify for these programs because they pay into the system right? I know I was denied unemployment at first because I had never worked (I live in NJ). So if, a person doesn’t pay taxes and the benefits (unemployement/disability) stem from previously paying into the system, why shouldn’t Montana law pass? I was denied unemployment b/c I didn’t pay in yet through my taxes, but would the Montana law say that a person who has never paid into the system suddenly be able to reap the benefits of the system? I’m having flashbacks to health care debate where it was “People who don’t have insurance get sick and then shift the burden to those who do pay for insurance.” Isn’t that what would happen if you allow social benefits to people who don’t pay taxes/don’t payinto the system? How is it different?

    I’m just so confused b/c it seems that if individuals don’t/can’t contribute to the system through taxes/paying their fair share, then how do you justify giving them the benefit? This is just the burden shifting problem the health care law (a Democrat law) tried to eliminate. I personally would be offended if I was denied benefits b/c I didn’t work yet and thus didn’t pay into system enough to get unemployment, but now this law says that individuals who don’t pay taxes get the same benefit I was denied

    I could easily be wrong with individuals not paying taxes/into the system, but if they aren’t I was denied the benefit, so they should be too. It’s cost shifting.

    • You can go to the IRS to get a tax payer’s identification number and pay your taxes that way. There has been mobilization through immigrant’s rights groups to push undocumented immigrants to pay taxes, taxes that they’re usually over-charged for and can never collect refunds for. While there still may be people who haven’t paid taxes, there is definitely a significant portion of undocumented residents who have made a specific effort to pay the IRS.

      And also, keep in mind that the benefit of in state tuition would only be given to undocumented immigrants who have graduated from a Montana high school. Meaning that they were in the country long enough to go to school then graduate. In that time, if these people held jobs and then used that money to purchase items, then they have paid taxes in the form of sales tax.

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