January 5, 2005
Foes of Proposition 200 are asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block Arizona from implementing the voter-approved initiative while they challenge the law.
Attorneys for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund claim that the measure could be interpreted so broadly as to deny benefits and government services to people legally entitled to them. By contrast, they argued, there is little harm to the state if the initiative is kept in abeyance while the legal merits of the measure are reviewed by the courts.
The new legal filing, made Tuesday, asks the appellate court to act within 21 days.
Araceli Soledad Perez, one of the legal defense fund attorneys, acknowledged that she could not point to a specific incident in which someone has been harmed since Dec. 22, the day that U.S. District Court Judge David Bury dissolved a temporary restraining order and let the state begin enforcing Proposition 200.
"What we have is stories from our own clients who say they are scared to go and get services because they don’t know what applies, what services they qualify for, what services are going to be denied to them,’’ she said. And the clients are concerned with a provision in the initiative that requires public employees to file reports with federal immigration authorities when someone here illegally applies for benefits, she said.
Proposition 200, adopted in November by voters, says "public benefits’’ are available only to those in the United States legally.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, in a formal opinion, said the scope of the public benefits section was limited and does not require proof of legal residency for most health and welfare programs. It also does not apply to emergency medical care or education.
Bury, in his Dec. 22 ruling, sided with Goddard and concluded no one’s rights would be violated by letting that section of law take effect while the merits of the case are litigated, a process that could take months or years.
But the defense fund, in its legal papers representing several Arizonans, both legal and otherwise, said Goddard’s opinion does not bind any state or local official.