Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 200 in Arizona, which prohibits illegal aliens from receiving some public benefits, has been dismissed by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The suit, brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Friendly House, a Phoenix-based nonprofit social service agency, was dismissed by U.S. Appeals Court Judges Alfred T. Goodwin, Johnnie B. Rawlinson and Thomas M. Reavley, sitting as a visiting judge. The panel said the plaintiffs had not shown they had been injured by implementation of the new law.

“The appeal is dismissed for want of jurisdiction. The district court record reveals that there was no case or controversy between plaintiffs and the state of Arizona when pleadings were before the district court,” the panel said.

Proposition 200, which passed in the November elections with 56 percent of the vote, requires state and local government employees to verify the immigration status of those seeking public benefits they are prohibited from receiving under federal law and to report to federal immigration authorities any applicant who is in violation of U.S. immigration law.

It also subjects state employees to criminal charges if they fail to report illegals, and requires people to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

MALDEF and Friendly House attorneys had sought to block implementation of the initiative, arguing in federal court in Arizona that unless the new law was overturned, it would “jeopardize the health and well-being of families and children who depend on public benefits for their basic necessities.”

In also seeking a restraining order, MALDEF attorney Hector O. Villagra said the proposition would “cut off all state services, including education, medical care and police and fire services, to all individuals who are unable to immediately provide adequate proof of their U.S. citizenship or residence.”

But U.S. District Judge David C. Bury in Tucson, Ariz., refused to block implementation of the law and denied the request for a restraining order, saying the organizations had failed to prove potential harm from enforcement of the initiative — a position upheld by the appeals court panel.

“Plaintiffs have not met their burden of demonstrating an injury-in-fact,” the panel said, noting that the plaintiffs did not “articulate a concrete plan to violate Proposition 200, evidence that prosecuting authorities have communicated a specific warning or threat to initiate proceedings, or a history of past persecution, which clearly cannot be shown here.”

In its appeal of the Bury ruling, MALDEF and Friendly House had argued to the appeals court panel that the judge abused his discretion by refusing to grant a preliminary injunction until a trial was held to determine the law’s constitutionality — a position also rejected by the appeals court.

Since the initiative’s enactment, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has implemented the proof of legal status requirements for applicants requesting public benefits and the requirement for proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

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