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Casar reports on SB 4 hearing in New Orleans

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by Jo Clifton

City Council Member Greg Casar attended Tuesday’s hearing on Senate Bill 4 at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The city of Austin, along with Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, the small border city of El Cenizo, and Maverick and El Paso counties, filed suit to overturn the law that requires local law enforcement officers to ask about a detainee’s immigration status and forces local sheriffs to cooperate with federal agents on detainers.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs got an injunction against much of the law on Aug. 30 from U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, but attorneys for the state of Texas asked a panel of the 5th Circuit to reinstate the law on Sept. 22. The judges hearing those arguments reinstated some parts of the law on Sept. 25.

A different group of judges heard Tuesday’s arguments, but prior to the hearing experts felt the state might have a better chance of prevailing because two of the three judges were appointed by Republican presidents. After the hearing, Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was “encouraged by the judges’ responses to our arguments that Senate Bill 4 is lawful, constitutional and a public safety issue.”

Nina Perales, who argued on behalf of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a conference call with reporters that the judges’ questioning of attorneys for the state and federal governments was particularly thorough. Andre Segura, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said that the penalties for a misstep could be crippling to an individual officeholder of a small town. One key point, he said, was that there is disagreement about what a government can and cannot do under SB 4.

“At the end of the day police chiefs are saying, ‘We have no idea what we should do when this law goes into effect,” Segura said.

After the hearing, Casar gave a live report on Facebook, saying, “As things stand right now, the city of Austin continues to dedicate our policing resources to addressing the issues you care about  of crime and violent crime and making sure our communities stay safe rather than dedicating resources without any controls over to the federal government for deportation. We know that when there is federal immigration enforcement happening in communities like Austin that means people don’t send their kids to school, that means people are canceling their health clinic appointments. It’s making us less safe when that’s going on, so we’re going to continue fighting in court against a law that just blanket says that we cannot even limit our police officers from being taken away by the federal government.” Casar promised to follow the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

Photo by Bobak Ha’Eri (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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