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City, state officials call for legal action against ‘sanctuary cities’ law

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by Syeda Hasan

Government officials and community activists from across the state gathered outside the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to voice support for taking legal action to stop the so-called “sanctuary cities” law.

Senate Bill 4, which goes into effect September 1, allows officers to question the immigration status of people they detain. It would also punish law enforcement agencies that don’t comply with federal immigration detainer requests.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law May 7. The next day, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit, asking a federal court to declare the law constitutional. The lawsuit named all 10 City Council members, Mayor Steve Adler, Interim City Manager Elaine Hart, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund as defendants. Earlier this month, Council Member Greg Casar was arrested protesting the bill.

“The governor and the other cynical supporters of SB 4 know this law has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with scapegoating immigrants for their political gain,” Casar said at the demonstration Tuesday. “But we’re sending a strong message today, alongside community organizations, which is, instead of caving in, the governor is going to get a summer of resistance.”

City Council is set to vote Thursday on a resolution related to SB 4. Casar said approving this measure would allow the city to take legal action even if Paxton’s lawsuit is dismissed. The draft resolution, which is sponsored by Casar and cosponsored by Council members Delia Garza, Ann Kitchen and Jimmy Flannigan, is embedded below.

The resolution concludes, “The City Manager is hereby directed to prepare and pursue litigation against, and defend litigation from, the State of Texas as appropriate, in order to provide relief to the City of Austin and the people of Texas from Senate Bill 4. The City Manager is hereby directed to explore, identify, and allocate the necessary resources, financial or otherwise, to prepare and pursue effective litigation and defense. Additionally, the City Manager is directed to explore coordination with other municipalities and entities engaging in similar litigation.”

Other Texas cities and counties have already sued over the law. It’s unclear whether Austin will join an existing lawsuit or take alternative legal action.

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This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Syeda Hasan/KUT.

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