AUSTIN – The state's Senate Bill 4 has caught the attention of immigration, legal, labor and public groups.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas at San Antonio enjoined the state from implementing and enforcing the provisions on Aug. 30.
SB4 would target “sanctuary cities” and enable law enforcement to question one’s immigration status during lawful stops or arrests. The court's order stated that "local officials and the Hispanic community anticipate racial profiling and increased frequency of ICE raids, which are tied to the objectives of SB 4."
The state has filed an appeal. According to the ACLU, oral arguments have been scheduled for Sept. 22.
In the interim, activists are joining together to fight against the legislation.
A press conference was held Aug. 31 between the Texas American Civil Liberties Union, TOP Education Fund and Service Employees International Union and other activists to discuss the ruling.
While waiting for comment from the Texas ACLU legal department, Stephen Wilson, communication specialist referred The Record in email to the ACLU's SB4 website. According to the site, the though bill has barred some alleged discriminatory behavior, what is still not blocked is that “local officers can still ask about immigration status, if they choose too, but only during a lawful stop or arrest."
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging the ruling that the bill is unconstitutional and is seeking to have the lawsuit filed against SB 4 moved from Federal Judge Orlando Garcia's court in San Antonio to Austin.
“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 in the release. “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."
“Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities,” said Gov. Greg Abbott in a release, adding if passed communities will be “less safe.”
A footnote in the 94-page court's ruling notes “it is unclear from the text of SB 4 whether other means of proving citizenship aside from producing a government-issued identification would suffice to excuse local officials' noncompliance with a federal detainer request.”
After discussing at length U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and several cases including Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972), Garcia wrote "'the government of the United States has broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens[,]' derived in part from the constitutional directive that the federal government 'establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.'"
He also noted justice “tips heavily” in plaintiffs' side.
“Indeed, at the end of the day, the Legislature is free to ignore the pleas of city and county officials, along with local police departments, who are in the trenches and neighborhoods enforcing the law on a daily and continuing basis,” the judge wrote in the ruling.