Arizona and Phoenix vowed Wednesday to defend workers if they are accused of not enforcing Proposition 200.
Meanwhile, East Valley municipalities are awaiting an Arizona Attorney General’s Office opinion expected Friday to help clarify the voter-approved initiative.
Tim Nelson, chief counsel to Gov. Janet Napolitano, said Wednesday the state will pay the legal expenses of any employee who follows the guidance of the attorney general’s office about the scope of the law.
The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to provide similar protections to city employees in what’s believed to be the first formal response from an Arizona municipality.
"We’ll do everything we can to protect employees who make a good-faith effort to comply with state law," Nelson said.
That law requires public employees to check the immigration status of applicants for "public benefits," a term not defined in the initiative. Attorney General Terry G oddard’s opinion is expected to decide what is — and is not — included.
Public workers also must file written reports of those not here legally with federal immigration officials. The initiative also says workers who break the law — and supervisors who ignore those violations — are subject to criminal fines and jail terms up to four months.
The measure also permits any Arizona resident who believes the law is not being obeyed to file suit to demand compliance.
The initiative is scheduled to take effect after the results are formally certified Nov. 22. Nearly 56 percent of voters supported the measure in the Nov. 2 election.
Municipal governments from Scottsdale to Apache Junction are conducting their own legal analysis and seeking some clarity.
"We don’t know what’s going to happen," Gilbert Town Manager George Pettit said. "Until everyone irons out what (the measure) covers, it’s hard to react for sure."
Mesa City Manager Mike Hutchinson said the city has not started training employees to respond to the new law.
"Our intention is always to follow the law, but what we’re wanting to do is make sure we as a city clearly understand the law so we do not create any confusion with our employees and the residents of our community," Hutchinson said.
Queen Creek is already feeling the impact of the new law in the study for a possible day laborer center.
Consultant Lance Decker said his final report on the center to the Town Council will be delayed to include upto-date information on Proposition 200 and its effects. It is unclear if the proposition could affect such a center.