A San Antonio federal judge has blocked the implementation of Texas’ so-called “sanctuary cities,” law which would have allowed local police to check the immigration status of detainees and imposed criminal penalties on local officials who refuse to cooperate in efforts to remove people from the country.
Orlando Garcia, chief judge of the Western District of Texas, granted a temporary injunction requested by several of Texas’ largest cities including Houston, Dallas and Austin that are opposed to the controversial law. He ruled that the cities are likely to succeed on their Fourth Amendment challenges to Senate Bill 4, which was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May and was set to go into effect on Friday.
Garcia also found that certain provisions of the SB 4 are preempted by federal law and interfere with the federal government’s authority to control immigration.
As part of his 94-page decision issued on Aug. 30, Garcia recounted a “long list of probable harms” to constitutional rights if Texas’ harsh immigration law were allowed to go into effect. They include:
• Local officials would be threatened that any action they take opposing the law will result in fines and removal from office, quoting Gov. Abbott as stating: “I’m putting the hammer down. Texas is not going to stand for it … We’re going to be seeking court orders that could lead to putting these people behind bars, the officials who are violating their oath of office.”
• Undocumented students on college campuses would be targeted under SB 4 because campus police departments are also subject to sanctions and penalties under SB 4. Thus, enrollment and attendance will be affected.
• Local officials and the Hispanic community anticipate racial profiling and increased frequency of ICE raids, which are tied to the objectives of SB 4.
• Undocumented immigrants—and U.S. citizens related to them—who are victims of family violence, sexual assault, abuse and stalking would be reluctant to come forward to report crimes because they would face removal from the country and separation from their families.
Garcia concluded that there was “overwhelming evidence” that the law will erode public trust and make communities less safe and, in turn, harm the state of Texas.
“The court cannot and does not second guess the Legislature,” Garcia concluded in his decision. “However, the state may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he will appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
“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,” 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.”