THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 13, 2005
PHOENIX - Opponents of
a law that denies some public benefits to illegal immigrants are heading to
court today to argue that one provision of Proposition 200 no longer should
be enforced until its constitutionality is debated during a trial.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is
hearing oral arguments on whether it should order the U.S. District Court in
Tucson to reverse its decision not to issue a preliminary injunction.
If the court in Tucson orders the preliminary injunction, the
part of the voter-approved law that denies some public benefits to illegal
immigrants will stop being enforced until a trial is held to determine
whether it is constitutional. Another provision dealing with voting will not
"There is a lot riding on this argument on Monday," said
Richard Samp, chief counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation, who
represents supporters of the law. "Even though there could be a trial down
the road, this hearing on Monday could decide the whole case."
The Court of Appeals' decision will be based on whether it
feels people could be irreparably harmed if it doesn't order the U.S.
District Court to issue the injunction, and on whether it decides the
plaintiffs have a strong argument on their constitutional claims, Samp said.
The parties were advised to be prepared today to discuss
whether the plaintiffs have the right to sue, Samp said.
Millions spent on benefits
Supporters argued the initiative voters approved
last November was needed because Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point on
the country's southern border, spends millions of dollars annually to
provide food stamps, welfare and other social services to illegal
They said the law would help to curtail fraud by requiring
people to produce proof of immigration status when obtaining certain
government services and would punish state workers who ignore illegal
applicants. They also maintained it would safeguard the election system by
requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote.
The passage of the law emboldened Arizona legislators to
propose other anti-immigration bills. Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed a number
of them, including one that would have given local police the power to
enforce federal immigration laws.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund,
which is appealing the U.S. District Court's decision to deny the
preliminary injunction, says the law is unconstitutional because it usurps
the federal government's power over immigration and naturalization.
"We are confident that the Court of Appeals will agree with
us and conclude that the district was wrong when it refused to enjoin
Proposition 200," said Hector Villagra, the fund's attorney.
To persuade the court in California to order the court in
Tucson to issue the preliminary injunction, the fund will have to prove that
Judge David Bury abused his discretion by lifting an earlier order
temporarily blocking the law.