Texas judge temporarily blocks state ban on 'sanctuary cities'

Texas judge temporarily blocks state ban on 'sanctuary cities'

Lindsey Duncan
September 1, 2017

A federal judge has temporarily blocked most of Texas' tough new "sanctuary cities" law allowing police to inquire about people's immigration status during routine interactions such as traffic stops.

So far, no. Less than 24 hours after Abbott signed the ban into law, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) pulled the first punch in the legal battle by filing a lawsuit alleging nearly all of Austin's city officials are "publicly hostile to cooperation with federal immigration enforcement".

Greg Abbott signed May 7, requires jails to honor all federal immigration detainer requests and ensures the right of any law-enforcement officer to inquire about immigration status in the midst of a legal detainment.

Local governments have argued that ICE detainer orders, which order law enforcement to detain suspects suspected of being undocumented immigrants, erodes trust between the public and local law enforcement. Under the law, officials refusing to comply with ICE could face a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to a $4,000 fine and potential prison time up to a year), additional fines, and possible removal from elected or appointed office. "There is also ample evidence that localities will suffer adverse economic consequences".

Garcia said the state law's provision went beyond the requirements of federal law and "upset the delicate balance between federal enforcement and local cooperation and violate the United States Constitution".

In order to obtain an injunction to the law, the local governments and organizations who challenged it were required to prove that they were harmed by it.

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Several Texas cities - including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin - sued to stop the law, arguing that it could lead to racial profiling, make it hard for local police to combat crime, and spark a backlash that would hurt the state's economy.

The law, known as SB4, was "one of the most extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Latino pieces of legislation in the country", Jolt, an Hispanic political activism group, said in a statement hailing the judge's ruling.

Plaintiffs in the case included five of Texas' six biggest cities - Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso - as well as the tiny border outpost of El Cenizo.

Senate Bill 4, passed in May by an extremely contentious state legislature, pitted the state's Republican leadership against the Democratic rule of several major cities in the state. Courts already have blocked similar laws in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. However, Garcia noted in the ruling that enforcing the ban might create a high level of distrust between local law officials and their surrounding communities. But in a lengthy ruling released Wednesday night Garcia determined the cities and counties within the state who filed suit to stop the law have a good chance of winning on some of the claims.

He said he would immediately appeal the decision and was confident the law would eventually be upheld. Rather than bringing our City together, Senate Bill 4 further marginalizes some of our most vulnerable populations. "Judge Garcia correctly realized that [Senate Bill 4] is an unconstitutional "solution" in search of a problem that would ultimately make Travis County and all of Texas less safe".