Judge Blocks Texas' Sanctuary Cities Law

Marlene Weaver
September 1, 2017

"This lawsuit united cities like Austin, Dallas, Houston and El Cenizo, with county officials, major law enforcement leaders, judges, and advocates for the almost five million immigrants who call Texas home". SB 4, as signed into law, would allow local law enforcement to inquire about immigration status when detaining or arresting people, and would punish law enforcement officials for implementing policies to prevent their officers from doing so. SB 4 was written to outlaw that concept by prohibiting cities and counties from passing any law or ordinance that limit federal immigration enforcement.

In a 94-page order released Wednesday evening, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled against two provisions of SB 4: for now, local jails will not be required to comply with all ICE detainers, which Garcia determined was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and law enforcement leaders can not be barred from implementing policies that discourage officers from inquiring about immigration. And he wrote that cities and towns had provided "overwhelming" and "ample" evidence that cooperating with immigration officials will "erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe" as well as harm the state economically.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia delivered the ruling late Wednesday in San Antonio, saying, "The state may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution".

The law was supposed to go into effect September 1.

Passed in May, the law is often summarized as a ban on "sanctuary cities", and would mean officials could check a person's immigration status during routine checks and report their findings to federal authorities.

According to the Texas Tribune, Judge Garcia halted part of the bill that, "required jail officials to honor all detainers", apparently in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

"We are so grateful to have courts who protect our rights and freedoms, and keep overzealous legislators in check", said Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Education Fund, one of the plaintiffs. "A person who "endorses" a policy that prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws can not express his/her ideas, thoughts, views and beliefs without the real threat of punishment.This is the epitome of viewpoint discrimination". Cities such as San Antonio, Houston and El Paso then joined.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a staunch supporter of SB 4, said the state will "immediately" appeal.

"Local officials are well informed on how SB 4 and the enforcement of immigration laws affect local practice and policy, and must be able to speak out freely on such issues without fear of penalty, reprisal, retaliation, and/or removal from office", the judge wrote. Texas is sure to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals - a fairly conservative circuit court that may overturn some of Wednesday's ruling. These are requests that come from ICE or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asking a local law enforcement agency to detain people in the country illegally until the feds can pick them up for deportation.

"Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe". ILRC staff has held legal trainings with attorneys and advocates to help them defend immigrants who may be impacted by SB 4 and related policies. Texas state governor Greg Abbott signed the bill almost three months ago in an event that was broadcast on Facebook Live, and the consequences for defying it looked to be severe.

Other reports by Insurance News

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