Court blocks Texas' 'sanctuary city' law

Texas heads to court to defend ban on dismemberment abortions

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia blocked portions of Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) requiring local law enforcement departments to comply with federal requests to hold unauthorized immigrants in custody.

A federal judge has largely blocked Texas' attempted crackdown on immigration and so-called sanctuary cities one day before it was set to come into effect. SB 4 is unconstitutionally vague given that it fails to identify the type of conduct that would break the law, specifically its prohibition of local officials from "endorsing" a policy limiting assistance in immigration enforcement. It allows jail officials to be charged with a misdemeanor if they knowingly refuse to hand over immigrants that the federal government asks for, and it allows police to question people's immigration status when they are arrested or detained, like at a traffic stop.

"There is also ample evidence that localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, harm the State of Texas". "However, the state may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution", Garcia concluded.

After Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed the law in May, Attorney General Ken Paxton preemptively filed a lawsuit asking for SB4 to be declared constitutional in advance of its September 1 implementation date.

But Texas's cities have just won a huge victory over the state (and the feds).

Critics said the law would encourage racial profiling by the police, and Travis County's sheriff had introduced a policy that was the target of SB 4.

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"While we're glad a judge struck down Abbott's racist Senate Bill 4, we must now direct our efforts to fighting back against similarly racist attacks on DACA", said Karen Muñoz, activist and co-founder of Mano Amiga.

"Defendants have not identified any provision of law within the [Immigration and Nationality Act], Texas statute, or some other legal authority that authorizes the local officials subject to SB 4 to arrest and detain for civil immigration violations, or to assess probable cause of removability", Garcia said.

A provision that would have required local police to allow their officers to cooperate with federal agents whenever possible, including "enforcement assistance" of federal immigration law.

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.

Garcia said in his ruling that his decision to not block those provisions were due, in part, to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that let similar provisions in an Arizona law stand. Garcia's decision also means that a police chief or other supervisor can't prevent officers from making the inquiry. "This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas' law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld", he added.

The cities and advocacy groups that sued over SB 4, however, don't see this as a huge setback. It is with Judge Garcia's court order that we begin to fix the damages brought by this discriminatory law. 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.

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