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Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Anti-Sanctuary Cities Law

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Protests were held outside the city's federal courthouse on the law's first day in court

A federal judge is blocking a Texas law that would have banned so-called "sanctuary cities."  Multiple Texas cities including San Antonio, Austin, and Houston sued the state saying Senate Bill Four was unconstitutional

The law was scheduled go into effect Friday. It would have allowed police and other law enforcement in the state to ask about someone’s immigration status while detained, even if a department’s policy forbids those questions.  It also required jails to comply with immigration detention orders. San Antonio was the first major Texas city to file suit. 

“There’s no room for fear and coercion that comes from a law that is built on discrimination and this is win for law enforcement like it’s a win for our immigrant community,“ District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana said. Saldana is a plaintiff in the suit.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund sued the state on behalf of the City of San Antonio.

In an e-mail statement, MALDEF Executive President Thomas Saenz said "By enjoining the bulk of SB 4, the federal court has preserved the ability of elected officials, sheriffs, and police chiefs to prevent their police forces from becoming untrained and unrestrained enforcers of federal immigration law.  While the court did not stop police officers from asking about immigration during a lawful detention, officers would be wise to avoid such inquiries because they could trigger a successful challenge to the detention itself, potentially jeopardizing legitimate work by local police.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg called it a victory for the city; “This law would have diminished the capacity of our local police officers to keep our communities safe and would have targeted members of our community. Today, San Antonio gets to refocus its efforts on being the most inclusive and welcoming city in the nation.” 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the ruling makes the state less safe. "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."

The state plans to appeal. “Senate Bill 4 was passed by the Texas Legislature to set a statewide policy of cooperation with federal immigration authorities enforcing our nation’s immigration laws,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules