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Texas sues Austin, Travis County over ‘sanctuary city’ law

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Texas is preemptively suing the city of Austin, Travis County and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to enforce the state’s newly minted “sanctuary city” law, Senate Bill 4.

The suit, filed on Monday, asks a federal court to declare the law constitutional. Precedent allows states to consolidate impending legal challenges to a law in a single case.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law Sunday night. MALDEF and other immigrant advocates have vowed to challenge it in court.

The law requires local law enforcement to cooperate with warrantless detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and allows law enforcement to inquire about a person’s immigration status during a detention. The state argues those provisions are valid under the Fourth and 14th Amendments.

Attorney General Ken Paxton said the suit, which was originally reported by Bloomberg, would allow for the law to be “fully honored” in Texas:

“SB 4 is constitutional, lawful and a vital step in securing our borders. SB 4 guarantees cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement to protect Texans,” he said. “Unfortunately, some municipalities and law enforcement agencies are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government and claim that SB 4 is unconstitutional.”

Mayor Steve Adler, who was also named as a defendant in the suit, said he was glad the issue was heading to court.

“A judge will decide whether the United States of America or Texas determines federal immigration policy and whether local police and prosecutors have the discretion to keep their communities safe,” he said in a statement.

The Texas Civil Rights Project called the lawsuit an attack on democracy and local autonomy.

“We will not allow state officials to move their anti-immigrant agenda forward unchallenged,” Executive Director Mimi Marziani said, “and we stand with our community in Austin, our allies at MALDEF and the Constitutional values we hold dear.”

The law is slated to go into effect Sept. 1.

This story has been corrected to reflect that the suit was filed on Monday.

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This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT.

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