Fed­eral judge tem­po­rar­ily blocks Texas’ tough ‘sanc­tu­ary cities’ law

The Day - - OPINION -

Austin, Texas (AP) — A fed­eral judge late Wed­nes­day tem­po­rar­ily blocked most of Texas’ tough new “sanc­tu­ary cities” law that would have al­lowed po­lice to in­quire about peo­ple’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus dur­ing rou­tine in­ter­ac­tions such as traf­fic stops.

The law, SB 4, had been cheered by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion but de­cried by im­mi­grants’ rights groups who say it could force any­one who looks like they might be in the coun­try il­le­gally to “show pa­pers.”

The mea­sure sailed through the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture de­spite months of protests and op­po­si­tion from busi­ness groups who wor­ried that it could cause a la­bor-force short­age in in­dus­tries such as con­struc­tion. Op­po­nents sued, ar­gu­ing it vi­o­lated the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, and U.S. District Judge Or­lando Gar­cia’s rul­ing in San An­to­nio keeps it from tak­ing ef­fect as planned Fri­day — al­low­ing the case time to pro­ceed.

In a 94-page rul­ing, Gar­cia wrote that there “is over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence by lo­cal of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing lo­cal law en­force­ment, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many com­mu­ni­ties and neigh­bor­hoods less safe” and that “lo­cal­i­ties will suf­fer ad­verse eco­nomic con­se­quences which, in turn, will harm the state of Texas.”

“The Court can­not and does not sec­ond guess the Leg­is­la­ture,” he con­tin­ued. “How­ever, the state may not ex­er­cise its au­thor­ity in a man­ner that vi­o­lates the United States Con­sti­tu­tion.”

Gar­cia’s or­der sus­pends the law’s most con­tentious lan­guage while sug­gest­ing that even parts of the law that can go for­ward won’t with­stand fur­ther le­gal chal­lenges.

The law had sought to fine law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties who fail to honor fed­eral re­quests to hold peo­ple jailed on of­fenses that aren’t im­mi­gra­tion re­lated for pos­si­ble de­por­ta­tion. It also would have en­sured that po­lice chiefs, sher­iffs and con­sta­bles could face re­moval from of­fice and even crim­i­nal charges for fail­ing to com­ply with such fed­eral “de­tainer” re­quests.

The four largest cities in Texas — San An­to­nio, Austin, Houston and Dal­las— have joined the law­suit, say­ing the law is vague and would have a chill­ing ef­fect on immigrant com­mu­ni­ties. Their at­tor­neys told Gar­cia that his rul­ing could de­ter­mine if other states pur­sue copy­cat mea­sures. Lawyers for the Texas at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice re­sponded that the new law has fewer teeth than Arizona’s 2010 “Show Me Your Pa­pers” mea­sure that was par­tially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Top con­ser­va­tives say an im­mi­gra­tion crack­down is nec­es­sary to en­force the rule of law. Repub­li­can Gov. Greg Ab­bott has main­tained that only law­break­ers have any­thing to worry about.

On the fi­nal day of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion in May, ten­sions boiled over when Repub­li­can state Rep. Matt Ri­naldi told Democrats that he had called fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents to re­port pro­test­ers in the Capi­tol who held signs say­ing they were il­le­gally in the coun­try. One Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tor ad­mit­ted push­ing Ri­naldi, who re­sponded by telling one Democrat that he would “shoot him in self-de­fense.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has made “sanc­tu­ary cities” a tar­get. U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions has threat­ened to pull fed­eral money from ju­ris­dic­tions that hin­der com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween lo­cal po­lice and im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties and has praised Texas’ law.

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