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San Antonio and Austin Sue to Block Texas' Ban on "Sanctuary Cities"
July 26 2017, 10:36 | Rex Rios
Protesters demonstrate against the new"sanctuary cities law at the state Capitol on Monday.
Jorge Sanhueza Lyon KUT
"Make no mistake about it, Governor Greg Abbott picked a fight with Texas families when he signed SB 4", said Jose Garza of Workers Defense Project, during a press call on June 1.
Texas' SB4 is the harshest and most sweeping anti-sanctuary law yet, creating a litany of new rules around immigration enforcement.
"Elected leaders across the state are following the leadership of community members who have called for a Summer of Resistance against the immoral and unconstitutional SB 4", City Council Member Greg Casar said, referring to the law, Senate Bill 4.
El Paso County is also suing over the law, with discussions about legal action also underway in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. The lawsuit argues the law, which will allow local cops to ask about immigration status even in routine police encounters (like traffic stops), was clearly "enacted with the goal of discriminating against Latinos and against immigrants".
San Antonio, which - which has not officially declared itself a sanctuary city but behaves as one - joined the legal fracas last week and dug into taxpayers' pockets to provide $150,000 in legal aid to illegal immigrants there.
The lawsuits also say SB 4 violates the Fourth Amendment because it could lead to jail detentions for immigration violations, which are civil infractions, not criminal offenses.
As the legal challenges to SB 4 have rolled in, a consensus of arguments against the law is beginning to emerge. In this case, the prudent course would be to wait until a decision has been made on whether a special session will be called.
Quickly following suit, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced Friday morning that the city would also be challenging SB4.
"For far too long, the legislature has been playing political football with the safety of our city, and other cities in Texas, and now we get to move to a different forum".
"When bad legislation is forced upon the people against their will, municipalities and local elected officials must intercede on behalf of their respective constituencies", he said in reference to a law passed by the elected legislators and signed by the governor. The suit alleges that all three were "hostile" to immigration law enforcement.
"Until we defeat [SB4], everyone traveling in or to Texas needs to be aware of what's in store for them", Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said at the time. It posits that a police officer might be forced under the law to assist federal immigration authorities performing operations in Austin while a more urgent public safety matter might be unfolding because the law prohibits local police from refusing to assist federal authorities in any instance. We need every officer working on fighting local crime not enforcing federal immigration law.