PHOENIX – A proposed legal challenge to Arizona’s new immigration law took a hit Monday when the Phoenix city attorney said Mayor Phil Gordon doesn’t have the power to target the law without City Council support.

Gordon was hoping to file a lawsuit to stop the law requiring local and state law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally.

After failing to gather enough support from city councilors, Gordon had claimed he could file a suit without their approval.

But the legal opinion by City Attorney Gary Verburg said only the City Council has the power to authorize lawsuits.

“I just don’t think we should be dragging the city of Phoenix and the taxpayers into this when they say they don’t want us to file a lawsuit,” said Sal DiCiccio, a City Council member who supports the law.

Gerardo Higginson, a spokesman for Gordon, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment late in the day.

Four lawsuits challenging the law were filed last week by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, a Washington-based researcher who plans to visit Arizona and two police officers, one from Phoenix and the other from Tucson.

The officers filed the lawsuit as individuals and not on behalf of their employers.

Meanwhile, a delegation of local officials from Arizona planned to meet today in Washington, D.C., with a representative of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division to discuss the impact that law will have on the Latino community.

Arizonans who plan to attend include Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and the Rev. Saul Montiel of Epworth United Methodist Church in Phoenix.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal government may go to court to challenge the new law.

Eliseo Medina, international executive vice president at Service Employees International Union, said the Arizona delegation asked for the meeting to convey a sense of urgency about the need for legal action.


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