TUCSON, Ariz.—A federal judge Tuesday temporarily barred the state from implementing a ballot initiative designed to prohibit illegal immigrants from getting public benefits.
Judge David C. Bury’s order said a lawsuit by initiative opponents raised questions about the constitutionality of Proposition 200, approved by voters Nov. 2. His temporary restraining order will keep the measure from becoming law until at least Dec. 22—the hearing date on the lawsuit.
“It seems to this court that a matter as important and with such potential ramifications as Proposition 200 requires and deserves time for thoughtful deliberation,” Bury wrote in his order.
Proposition 200 requires proof of immigration status when obtaining certain government services and proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Government workers who don’t report illegal immigrants who try to get benefits could also face jail time and a fine.
The measure wasn’t intended to affect federally mandated services.
Backers described the measure as a way to begin cracking down on illegal immigration in Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The lawsuit, however, argues the law will jeopardize the “health and well-being” of families who depend on public benefits for basic necessities, and could potentially cut them from all state services, including schools and emergency services. It says the measure usurps the federal government’s power over immigration and naturalization.
“We believe that this is a promising start to ensure that the proposition doesn’t become law,” said Ann Marie Tallman, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which filed the lawsuit.
Gov. Janet Napolitano’s spokeswoman, Jeanine L’Ecuyer, said she had been planning to sign a proclamation Wednesday declaring the measure state law. The order apparently bars her from doing so.
“Our understanding is that the judge’s intent is that it not take effect,” L’Ecuyer said.
Proposition proponents didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. Earlier in the day, Randy Pullen, chairman of Yes on Proposition 200, said: “I think we are on real solid ground constitutionally.”