Immigrant rights group files lawsuit against M.H.P. - News, Sports and Weather

Immigrant rights group files lawsuit against Montana Highway Patrol

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In other news, an immigrant-rights group is working to end the discriminatory polices that the Montana Highway Patrol is allegedly practicing by filing a lawsuit against the agency. A. B.C. Montana's Joe Moeller is in Helena where he spoke with the president of the group, who is also the attorney in the case.

The Helena based organization Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, also known as MIJA, filed a class-action lawsuit Monday with the U.S. District Court that claims the Montana Highway Patrol improperly detained Hispanic drivers.

"Unlike the average Montanan who should simply get a ticket and is back on their way, Latinos in the State of Montana have actually been subjected to extra discrimination in the form of questions about their immigration status."says MIJA President and they attorney in the case, Shahid Haque-Hausrath.

The 49 page lawsuit alleges that the Montana Highway Patrol has a practice of seizing Latino drivers and or passengers that a officer believes is in the country illegally.

"There is actually a pattern, policy, and practice that was implemented at the highest levels of Montana Highway Patrol and that is what triggered out lawsuit."

According to MIJA two former Montana Highway Patrol administrators approved of this alleged practice.

"Colonel Tooley who was the Chief of the Montana Highway Patrol, he approved of this in the form of an e-mail where a clear case of racial profiling was brought to his attention, and then we got very clear admissions from the Montana Department of Justice that Colonel Kenton Hickethier was instructing his officers to detain people that they suspected of being undocumented immigrants."

During a normal traffic stop MIJA claims that the Montana Highway Patrol is discriminating against Latinos by holding suspected illegal's for up to two hours while checking with immigration.

"Plaintiff Jose Rios Diaz is a good example, he was a U.S. citizen who was pulled over and without any legitimate reason to suspect that he had committed any laws, he was hold for about 47 minutes and really interrogated about his immigration status."

The lawsuit does name the current mMontana Highway Patrol Col. Tom Butler and Attorney General Tim Fox as defendants, the Montana Department of Justice is reviewing the lawsuit and has no comment at this time.

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