A federal judge shot down a Texas lawsuit filed against municipalities identified as “sanctuary cities” for their alleged non-compliances with Texas State Senate Bill 4 (SB4), an immigration law designed to stop so-called “sanctuary” cities—those that refuse to cooperate with the federal government’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants—and prevent new ones from forming within the state.
District Judge Sam Sparks of the Austin Division of Western Texas ruled that the municipalities in question could not have violated SB4 as its implementation has yet to formally take effect.
Judge Sparks wrote and published the order on August 9, stating: “Because Sb4 does not take effect until September 2017, it is impossible for defendants to take any action that would violate the not-yet-effective law. … The mere fact that a municipal policy was instituted before a law was signed, or that it remains in place prior to the law taking effect, does not equate to a violation of the law.”
Judge Sparks, however, noted that the federal government maintains its authority on immigration matters, writing:
“The federal government has the exclusive power to enforce immigration laws, and regardless of its intent, no state or local entity can interfere with the enforcement of these laws.”
SB4, also known as the “Show Me Your Papers” bill, was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on May 7, 2017. The law intends to coerce local law enforcement—police officers, sheriffs, jail officers, campus police, and even mayors—into cooperating with federal immigration agencies under threat of civil and criminal penalties, with fines going as high as $25,000 for every infraction.
Under SB4, local agencies are required to fulfill detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, even if the immigrant has not been charged for violation of local laws, drawing both scrutiny and ire from the legal community and judiciary.
Municipalities now deemed as “sanctuary cities” have fought back, claiming that they will not be forcing their law enforcement to communicate with, respond to, or comply with federal immigration agencies. They also announced that they will not be proactively notifying immigration officials should they have an undocumented immigrant in custody.
Several counties and cities within and outside Texas have openly opposed the law, united in their position that the law is unconstitutional. These include Houston, Austin, and San Antonio among a cluster of other jurisdictions.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton came to SB4’s defense and expressed his disappointment over the decision
“The health, safety, and welfare of Texans is not negotiable. We’re disappointed with the court’s ruling and look forward to pressing our winning arguments in the San Antonio cases and beyond (if necessary) on this undoubtedly constitutional law,” Paxton said.
For further updates on SB4, be sure to follow this blog. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of racial profiling and questionable detention because of your immigration status, don’t hesitate to approach the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Contact our offices to speak with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.