‘Sanc­tu­ary cities’ ban put on hold by judge

SB 4 im­mi­gra­tion law had been set to go into ef­fect on Fri­day.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Philip Jankowski pjankowski@statesman.com

A fed­eral judge has tem­po­rar­ily blocked the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Se­nate Bill 4, the “sanc­tu­ary cities” ban, a rul­ing that marks a ma­jor vic­tory for crit­ics of the con­tro­ver­sial law that has been a ral­ly­ing cry for Repub­li­can law­mak­ers across Texas and the na­tion.

In his rul­ing Wed­nes­day evening, U.S. District Judge Or­lando Gar­cia ques­tioned the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the state law and ex­pressed con­cern over SB 4’s po­ten­tial to make lo­cal au­thor­i­ties’ jobs more dif­fi­cult by strain­ing their re­la­tion­ships with their com­mu­ni­ties, The Dal­las Morn­ing News re­ported.

The rul­ing will pre­vent the law from tak­ing ef­fect Fri­day as it had been slated to. The rul­ing puts in place a tem­po­rary in­junc­tion while a law­suit against the law goes for­ward.

“This rul­ing is good for Austin be­cause SB 4 if ever im­ple­mented would make Austin less safe,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a news re­lease. “This week’s cri­sis with Hur­ri­cane Har­vey is just the most re­cent ex­am­ple why peo­ple need to feel safe ap­proach­ing our lo­cal po­lice and sup­port groups, no mat­ter what. If peo­ple in Austin do not feel safe ask­ing for help, they be­come more vul­ner­a­ble to crime, not just nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.”

Travis County Sher­iff Sally Her­nan­dez also said she was pleased with the rul­ing.

“I be­lieve that lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties are stronger and safer when jus­tice and secu- rity are a re­al­ity, not for some, but for all,” Her­nan­dez said. “I look for­ward to the ul­ti­mate res­o­lu­tion.”

Travis County Judge Sarah Eck­hardt joined the list of Demo­cratic lead­ers who praised the de­ci­sion. De­spite Gar­cia’s rul­ing,

the le­gal fight over the law is likely far from over.

Shortly after Gar­cia’s rul- ing, Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton said he’d con- tinue to de­fend SB 4 in courts.

“Se­nate Bill 4 was passed by the Texas Leg­is­la­ture to set a statewide pol­icy of coop- er­a­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties en­forc­ing our na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion laws,” Pax­ton said. “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.”

Fri­day’s planned im­ple- men­ta­tion of SB 4 had lo­cal op­po­nents fear­ful of what it will mean for im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties in Austin and be­yond.

SB 4 cre­ates civil and crim­i­nal penal­ties for any elected of­fi­cial who pre­vents lo­cal co­op­er­a­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion re­quests placed on county jail in­mates sus­pected of be­ing in the coun­try ille- gally. It also em­pow­ers lo­cal

po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus dur­ing rou­tine po­lice in­ter- ac­tions, such as traf­fic stops.

Sup­port­ers of SB 4 be­lieve the law will take crim­i­nals off the streets. Op­po­nents say the law will lead to racial pro­fil­ing, cre­ate dis- trust be­tween res­i­dents and po­lice and break up im­mi­grant fam­i­lies.

When it was drafted, SB 4 seemed aimed at Sher­iff Her­nan­dez, who an­nounced in late Jan­uary that the Travis County Jail would ig­nore most of the so-called de­tainer re­quests by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. Her­nan­dez’s pol­icy al­lows sus­pected unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants to leave the jail if they post bail, with some ex­cep- tions re­lated to ma­jor crimes.

The pol­icy cre­ated un­prece­dented ac­ri­mony be­tween Her­nan­dez, who was elected in 2016, and Gov. Greg Ab­bott, who vowed to have the sher­iff tossed from of­fice.

The 11th-hour in­junc­tion de­railed lo­cal law en­force- ment agen­cies’ plans to com­ply with the law.

Be­fore Wed­nes­day’s in­junc­tion, a sher­iff ’s of­fice spokes­woman had said Her­nan­dez was ready to fol­low the law and be­gin hon­or­ing all ICE de­tain­ers on Fri­day. Jail staff had been prepar- ing for the law, but no solid pol­icy had been for­mal­ized on deputies in­quir­ing about im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

The Austin Po­lice Depart­ment had also been ready to roll out a new pol­icy Fri­day that out­lined com­pli­ance with SB 4, in­terim Po­lice Chief Brian Man­ley said.

Of­fi­cers would have been re­quired to fill out a re­port when in­ves­ti­gat­ing a per­son’s cit­i­zen­ship to in­di­cate why an of­fi­cer made an in­quiry and what ques­tions were asked, Man­ley said.

“This is an at­tempt of us to be fully trans­par­ent about when we ask ques­tions re­lated to a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” Man­ley told the Amer­i­can-Statesman.

SB 4 pro­hibits ques­tion­ing re­lated to a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus in cer- tain cir­cum­stances, in­clud

ing when of­fi­cers are work- ing de­tails for churches, hos- pitals or schools. How­ever, op­po­nents of the pro­vi­sion in SB 4 em­pow­er­ing of­fi­cers to be­come proxy im­mi­gra­tion cops say it will en­cour- age racial pro­fil­ing. SB 4 also con­tains a pro­vi­sion that pro­hibits racial dis­crim­ina-

tion, but it pro­vides no guid- ance as to how to walk the line be­tween en­force­ment and the po­ten­tial for over en­force­ment on the state’s large His­panic pop­u­la­tion.

Some­thing more strict was at­tempted in Ari­zona in 2010 with the pas­sage of the con- tro­ver­sial com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment law Se­nate Bill 1070. The law not only en­cour­aged but de­manded law en­force­ment in­ves­ti­gate any­one’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus if a po­lice offi- cer found “rea­son­able sus­pi­cion” that they might be in the coun­try il­le­gally. A court set­tle­ment in 2016 re­quired the state to stop de­mand­ing its law en­force­ment of­fi­cers to ask for the pa­pers of peo- ple they might sus­pect of be­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Texas does not is­sue driver’s li­censes to any­one who can­not pro­vide proof of U.S. cit­i­zen­ship. As a re­sult, when a driver is un­able to pro­vide a li­cense dur­ing a traf­fic stop, it is often a sig­nal that the per­son might be in the coun­try il­le­gally, Vaughan said.

Wil­liamson County Sher­iff Robert Chody, a con­ser­va­tive who has pub­licly sup­ported

the spirit of SB 4, had said Tues­day that lo­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law had tem­po­rar­ily taken a back seat to re­sponse ef­forts to Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

SB 4 “is not our pri­or­ity right now,” Chody said as he pre­pared to ac­com­pany deputies who are res­cu­ing peo­ple from the cat­a­strophic flood­ing in Hous­ton. “The hur­ri­cane has re­ally dis­tracted us.”

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