Federal Judge Blocks Texas Sanctuary City Ban

Texas attempted to block cities from providing immigrants sanctuary within their borders, but a federal judge has put a stay on the state’s ban, claiming that it is likely unconstitutional.

Judge Orlando L. Garcia of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, August 30, preventing the law from taking effect. Called one of the toughest anti-immigration measures in the country, the ban was due to begin on September 1.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 4, stops cities or counties from adopting any policies that prevent immigration rules enforcement. This essentially rescinds a city’s autonomy to provide what are known as “sanctuary” areas, where officials refuse to cooperate with what they believe are overzealous immigration laws.

Senate Bill 4 also empowers police offers to question and check the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest. Texas argues that this simply streamlines the process of immigration review, but civil rights rights groups view the policy as veiled racism, given that few white person will have their immigration status verified.

Supporters of the law hit back at that claim, however, noting that the bill’s language specifically precludes racial profiling. But critics maintain that if the bill’s intent is to target immigrant communities, it inherently makes any non-white person suspect.

Regardless, if officials do not comply with the mandates of Senate Bill 4, the legislation threatens fines of up to $25,500 a day and potential jail time.

Additionally, a provision in the law requires local officials to adhere to immigration detainer requests. This means that any foreign-born detainee could be transferred to federal custody for immigration review.

In his 94-page preliminary injunction, Judge Garcia carefully picks apart the law and explains why he believes the cities, local officials and police departments suing the state of Texas over SB4 will likely win.

Regarding the broader impact of the law, Judge Garcia writes:

There is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe. There is also ample evidence that localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, harm the state of Texas.

Judge Garcia also takes exception to aspects of the law that prevent officials from endorsing sanctuary cities or undocumented workers, explaining:

The government may disagree with certain viewpoints, but they cannot ban them just because they are inconsistent with the view that the government seeks to promote. SB 4 clearly targets and seeks to punish speakers based on their viewpoint on local immigration enforcement policy.

In total, Garcia has blocked three key aspects of the bill from enforcement, effectively preventing the entire law from being implemented in any meaningful way.

Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, released the following statement regarding the news:

The Texas legislature has a reliable history of ignoring the Constitution when writing law, and we’re thankful the court blocked SB4 before it could do irreparable damage to our communities. But we do not expect Gov. Abbott or Attorney General Ken Paxton to yield easily. This fight isn’t over yet, so we call upon law enforcement, local officials, and supporters who have fought so hard to stop this law not to let up until SB4 is well and truly dead.

But Texas has vowed to appeal the ruling, with Governor Greg Abbott stating:

“Today’s decision makes Texas’ communities less safe,” said Governor Abbott. “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities. U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side. This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.”

Governor Abbott appears to reference the 2012 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the centerpiece of Arizona’s infamous “show me your papers” law. However, the Court did strike down other parts of Arizona’s law, leaving the door open for future challenges. Texas may be overstating its hand, though the New Orleans appeals court – where this appeal will now go — is a highly conservative circuit and may be amenable to such arguments.

As the New York Times notes, the Trump administration has also filed statements of interest in this case and has defended the law. The administration has not commented on the specific penalties, but has said it believes states are allowed to make whichever laws they choose — within the bounds of the Constitution and federal law, of course — when it comes to enforcing immigration law.

The Trump administration has come under fire after ICE officials detained multiple lawful American citizens, and critics charge that this is precisely the climate created by zealous anti-immigrant legislation.

Photo credit: PRODaniel Lobo.

36 comments

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan H2 days ago

NOTED!!

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One Heart i
One Heart inc10 days ago

Thanks!!!

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One Heart i
One Heart inc10 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s11 days ago

Thank you

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s11 days ago

Thank you

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ellie d
Ellie M13 days ago

ty

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Greta H
Greta H16 days ago

thank you

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One Heart inc
One Heart inc16 days ago

Thanks!!!

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One Heart inc
One Heart inc16 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Naomi D
Naomi D18 days ago

Reading some of the comments below - I think some people didn't understand the article.

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