PHOENIX — A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to block implementation of a portion of a voter-approved Arizona law that denies some public benefits to illegal immigrants.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the plaintiffs challenging the public benefits provisions of the law had no right to sue.
The law, which appeared on Arizona's 2004 general election ballot as Proposition 200, bars illegal immigrants from receiving certain public benefits and makes it a crime for public employees to fail to report undocumented immigrants who seek the benefits outlined in the legislation. A separate provision requires people to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote.
The plaintiffs had asked the appellate court to rule that U.S. District Judge David C. Bury had abused his discretion by refusing to grant a preliminary injunction until a trial is held to determine whether the benefits prohibition is constitutional.
The provisions dealing with voters weren't affected by the challenge.
The 9th Circuit order said the plaintiffs had not demonstrated they were hurt by implementation of the law or been charged or specifically threatened with prosecution. Also, there was no allegation of a 1st Amendment injury that would lower the legal hurdle in front of the right to sue, the order said.
Supporters argued that the initiative approved by voters in November was needed because Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point on the country's southern border, spent millions of dollars annually to provide food stamps, welfare and other social services to illegal immigrants.
They said the law would help 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.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund appealed Bury's order and argued that the law was unconstitutional on the grounds that it usurped the federal government's power over immigration and naturalization.
Bury ruled that the plaintiffs had little chance of success in their lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality.