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So-called Sanctuary City and County Countersue Texas, Declare New Law “Unconstitutional”

texas-1656861_640-300x196A border town and county are filing a countersuit against the State of Texas for what they allege is an unconstitutional and coercive new immigration law sanctioning “sanctuary cities” that refuse to comply with the federal government’s deportation efforts. This comes on the heels of the state filing a preemptive lawsuit on May 8, imploring the federal court to acknowledge said law as constitutional.

Among those targeted in the preemptive lawsuit include the City of Austin, its city council, mayor, city manager, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund—a Latino legal civil rights organization that has been active in fighting racial injustice in Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went live on Facebook last week to sign Senate Bill 4 into law, which now requires law enforcement agencies at both the state and local government level to honor “detainer” requests from immigration agencies. Criminal penalties stipulated in the new law to ensure compliance among law enforcement officials include up to a year of detention for sheriffs and officers.

Sanctions

A number of other punitive measures are included in the new law, including the prohibition of local authorities from adopting policies that protect a person from being interrogated of their immigration status. Local governments, police agencies, and college campus police may now be charged with Class A misdemeanors for non-compliance with immigration detainers—requests to hold an immigrant indefinitely for questioning by immigration officials.

According to Gov. Abbott, the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld “key policies” in the bill.

El Cenizo and Maverick Fight Back with Countersuit

El Cenizo, a border town in Webb County, and Maverick County, another region situated by the border, filed a countersuit against Texas Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. Their suit seeks a declaratory judgment on SB 4’s alleged violation of the 4th, 5th, 10th, and 14th Amendments, Articles I and VI of the Constitution, and Title 8 Section 1373 of the U.S. Code.

The lawsuit states: “The State of Texas acts unconstitutionally when it acts to compel and coerce its local government and officials to violate federal law.”

However, Paxton maintains the new law does not violate either the 4th or the 14th Amendments in asserting its constitutionality. “[Immigration and Customs Enforcement] makes the determination of whether it has probable cause to issue a detainer, and will not issue a detainer without probable cause,” he asserts.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, said the civil rights group stands with Austin and Travis County, calling the preemptive lawsuit as “frivolous.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a defendant in Texas’s lawsuit, said on Monday that he celebrates the impending legal exchange in court, where he believes “it’s not about politics,” but “about the law.”

If you or a loved one needs to know more about so-called sanctuary city policies in Texas, especially Austin, talk to the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to learn more from immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.