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Court upholds majority of ‘sanctuary cities’ law

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Senate Bill 4 can remain in effect for the time being. Tuesday’s decision will allow the so-called “sanctuary cities” law to take effect while the case against it plays out.

However, a part of the law is still on hold. A provision that would have made local officials subject to fines, jail time or even removal from office for “endorsing” policies that impede enforcement of immigration laws remains under injunction for the time being while the case remains in court.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, most large cities in Texas, including Austin, filed a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations. Tuesday’s ruling found that not to be the case, aside from the “endorsement prohibition” that is still on hold. SB 4 allows law enforcement to question the immigration status of people who have been detained or are under arrest. It also punishes officials who do not comply with federal immigration detainers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, uses to apprehend individuals through local and state law enforcement agencies, putting those individuals into the federal deportation system.

The ruling was a win for conservative lawmakers, including Abbott. The governor took to Twitter shortly after the ruling came down to write, “Texas Ban on Sanctuary City Policies upheld by Federal Court of Appeals. Allegations of discrimination were rejected. Law is in effect.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was more effusive in his statement that praised what he termed a “common-sense measure that bans sanctuary cities in Texas.”

“I’m pleased the 5th Circuit recognized that Senate Bill 4 is lawful, constitutional and protects the safety of law enforcement officers and all Texans,” Paxton said. “Enforcing immigration law prevents the release of individuals from custody who have been charged with serious crimes. Dangerous criminals shouldn’t be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes.”

Mayor Steve Adler was reserved in his statement to the press. “I’m disappointed and we need to hear our attorney’s advice,” he said. “Our police chief tells us this law will make us less safe because it breaks down the trust we’ve earned with many of our communities. So we need to respond and act, within the law, to preserve as much of that trust as possible.”

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who made headlines with her initial refusal to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also issued a statement.

“Words just can’t express how disappointed I am with this ruling. We are reviewing the Court’s opinion to determine any additional steps that need to be taken. We will continue to follow the law as provided to us by the courts in this matter and we will rise to the challenge of keeping Travis County safe, although our ability to overcome fear and foster cooperation within the immigrant community is a greater challenge now,” said Hernandez.

From here, all parties will await a final ruling from the federal court in San Antonio, with an expectation that this case will ultimately be heard by the Supreme Court.

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

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