Lawyers Argue Prop. 200’s Scope

Yvonne Wingett, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Jan. 28

Legal jostling over phrasing in Proposition 200 continued Thursday with attorneys arguing over a lawsuit that seeks to broaden the scope of the anti-illegal immigration law.

In a Mesa courtroom, an attorney for the state argued the suit should be thrown out because a legal opinion by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard limiting the definition of “public benefits” is constitutional. Backers of the measure hope to expand benefits denied to undocumented immigrants under Proposition 200 to include public housing, food assistance and employment benefits, among other benefits.

Shortly after Arizona voters approved the initiative in November, Goddard helped advise state officials that the benefits should include only four active programs, a cash assistance program for the disabled and their caregivers, a program for the visually impaired and two utility assistance programs.

Plaintiffs’ attorney David Abney argued he needed more time to respond to the state’s motion to dismiss the case—and he wanted a chance to argue that Goddard abused his power by narrowly defining the measure’s scope.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Barbara Jarrett granted the request. She will then determine whether she will take the case under advisement.

Abney contends Jarrett should hear the case because “(Goddard’s) opinion was wrong. The law was broadly worded. It applies to all public benefits, any sort of program that benefits the public.” But the defense countered that the plaintiffs’ dispute with Goddard’s interpretation doesn’t warrant this legal procedure.

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