Re­li­gious groups file court briefs op­pos­ing ‘sanc­tu­ary cities’ law

Se­nate Bill 4 part of ‘anti-im­mi­grant agenda,’ bishop says.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Philip Jankowski pjankowski@states­man.com

For the first time, re­li­gious groups have filed court briefs against the so-called sanc­tu­ary cities ban in Se­nate Bill 4, en­ter­ing the fray in a law­suit that seeks to pre­vent the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law, which they say will harm their faith com­mu­ni­ties.

The Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of Texas, nu­mer­ous in­di­vid­ual re­li­gious lead­ers and a state in­ter­faith or­ga­ni­za­tion on Sun­day asked the fed­eral court in San An­to­nio to con­sider their op­po­si­tion to SB 4 when de­cid­ing on a re­quest for an in­junc­tion that would pre­vent the law from be­ing en­forced be­gin­ning Sept. 1.

“SB 4 is con­trary to the moral im­per­a­tive that we love our neigh­bor, wel­come the im­mi­grant and care for the most vul­ner­a­ble among us,” Bishop C. An­drew Doyle of the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of Texas said in a news re­lease. “This law rep­re­sents an anti-im­mi­grant agenda that is born out of fear and pro­moted out of a sense of priv­i­lege, jeop­ar­diz­ing jus­tice for ev­ery­one.”

The law, which crit­ics of­ten call the “show me your pa­pers bill,” would em­power lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cers to in­quire about any­one’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus dur­ing rou­tine po­lice encounters, such as traf­fic stops.

It also pro­hibits lo­cal gov­ern­ments from ig­nor­ing de­ten­tion re­quests by fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion author­i­ties for jail in­mates sus­pected of liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally. Travis County has a pol­icy that ig­nores many of these so-called de­tain­ers re­quested by agents from Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

Du­el­ing law­suits re­lated to SB 4 have been filed in fed­eral

courts in San An­to­nio and Austin. Though the suit from At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton filed in Austin pre­ceded the suit from sev­eral Texas cities, the one in San An­to­nio is ex­pected to take pri­macy, ac­cord­ing to a source in­volved in the suit but not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

The re­li­gious lead­ers’ brief was filed in the San An­to­nio case.

Lead­ing up to SB 4’s pas­sage, more than 200 re­li­gious lead­ers, in­clud­ing Doyle, par­tic­i­pated in protests and leg­isla­tive hear­ings that cul­mi­nated in the pas­sage of SB 4. How­ever, the court fil­ings Sun­day marked the first time re­li­gious groups had joined the court bat­tle.

Six bish­ops from the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese along with the Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church in Amer­ica, the United Methodist Church and Texas Im­pact filed a friend of the court brief against SB 4. In to­tal, they rep­re­sent at least 142,000 parish­ioners and 461 con­gre­ga­tions in Texas, ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing.

Lo­cally, Austin City Coun­cil Mem­ber Sabino “Pio” Ren­te­ria has said he has seen at­ten­dance at his church drop sharply since ICE con­ducted en­force­ment raids this year in Texas and law­mak­ers passed SB 4.

The fil­ing states that it would ham­per re­li­gious groups’ ef­forts to help new im­mi­grants seek as­sis­tance, cit­ing a United Na­tions study that found 64 percent of fe­male im­mi­grants who en­ter the coun­try il­le­gally are flee­ing vi­o­lence, the suit said.

It also states that the law would al­low “rogue” of­fi­cers to com­mit wan­ton racial and eth­nic pro­fil­ing.

Sup­port­ers of the law say it is a pub­lic safety is­sue that would keep crim­i­nals off the streets and pre­vent them from evad­ing im­mi­gra­tion hear­ings that would lead to de­por­ta­tions.

Last month, ICE and the Travis County sher­iff ’s of­fice had a spat over a man the sher­iff’s of­fice re­leased against the wishes of the fed­eral agency.

Sher­iff Sally Her­nan­dez pub­licly groused over an ICE state­ment tout­ing the ar­rest of a Mex­i­can gang mem­ber who had been de­ported four times, only to ac­knowl­edge a day later that the of­fice prob­a­bly would have hon­ored the de­tainer had it known the man’s ex­ten­sive crim­i­nal his­tory.

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