Legislature passes bill allowing green card holders to become firefighters

Once Gov. Steve Bullock signs the legislation, the Havre Fire Department can hire an Irish immigrant as a firefighter. (Teresa Getten/The Havre Herald)

(Havre Herald) Gov. Steve Bullock’s signature is all that is needed and Conn Butler will be eligible to become a Havre firefighter.

Senate Bill 192 has passed the Montana House and Senate, and awaits the governor’s seal of approval, which seems assured.

The bill passed the House 95-2 after passing the Judiciary Committee 17-0. Earlier, it passed the Senate.

Butler’s application to become a Havre firefighter started off as routine, but emerged as an issue in the halls of the state Capitol after it was discovered that an obscure Montana law prohibits green card holders from becoming paid firefighters.

Butler came to the United States from Ireland. He is a green card holder and plans to become a U.S. citizen.

He was interviewed for an open position with the Havre fire department, at which time it was discovered that he couldn’t legally be hired.

Rather than accept the decision, he appealed to Helena.

Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta, sponsored the legislation, saying that Butler did everything he was supposed to do in seeking citizenship, but bureaucracy was slowing things down.

Other lawmakers shook their heads at the law, which they said made no sense. Green card holders are allowed to become members of the armed forces and in many other states are allowed to become firefighters and police officers.

Bullock is in the process of signing or vetoing hundreds of bills that were passed during the nearly completed legislative session. He has 30 days once the legislature adjourns sine die, which could come as early as Thursday.