Texas asks ap­peals court to re­in­state anti-sanc­tu­ary law

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Texas asked a fed­eral ap­peals court Thurs­day to re­vive the state’s new an­ti­sanc­tu­ary city law, mov­ing quickly to try to over­turn a district judge’s rul­ing that most of the law is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The move, which was ex­pected, height­ens the le­gal show­down between Texas and a num­ber of cities in the state, who are des­per­ately fight­ing to keep their sanc­tu­ary poli­cies, say­ing they fear re­la­tions with their im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties would be poi­soned if they co­op­er­ate with fed­eral de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers.

District Judge Or­lando L. Gar­cia had sided with the cities in a rul­ing late Wed­nes­day, say­ing that the fed­eral govern­ment has the obli­ga­tion to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws and states can­not try to force co­op­er­a­tion.

Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton ap­pealed, say­ing the state law was the re­sult of care­ful de­lib­er­a­tions that con­cluded sanc­tu­ary cities make res­i­dents less safe.

He first asked Judge Gar­cia to halt his rul­ing to let the law take ef­fect Fri­day, while the ap­peals court hears the case. The judge re­fused.

“While De­fen­dants have an in­ter­est in im­ple­ment­ing and en­forc­ing their en­acted laws, the pro­tec­tion of con­sti­tu­tional rights is para­mount,” Judge Gar­cia wrote. “The public in­ter­est will not be served by grant­ing a stay.”

Mr. Pax­ton quickly filed his ap­peal to the 5th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals.

The bat­tle comes even as Mr. Pax­ton is help­ing over­see Texas’s re­cov­ery ef­forts af­ter Har­vey.

The new Texas law, SB4, would im­pose penal­ties on lo­cal­i­ties that en­act sanc­tu­ary poli­cies pre­vent­ing sta­tus checks or lim­it­ing co­op­er­a­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties. Elected or ap­pointed of­fi­cials could be re­moved from of­fice, while po­lice chiefs and sher­iffs could face crim­i­nal charges for de­fy­ing the new law.

SB4 would also per­mit po­lice to check im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of those they en­counter and have rea­son­able sus­pi­cion to be­lieve are in the coun­try il­le­gally — though it doesn’t re­quire the checks.

Judge Gar­cia is­sued an in­junc­tion block­ing the anti-sanc­tu­ary pro­vi­sions, but al­lowed the po­lice checks to pro­ceed.

He ruled that the Supreme Court has al­ready said po­lice checks are le­gal, as long as some­one isn’t stopped specif­i­cally for a check, and the stop doesn’t last longer than usual.

Im­mi­grant-rights groups call the checks an in­tru­sive “show-your-pa­pers” law, and urged po­lice not to use it, say­ing it’s dis­cre­tionary.

The groups also said illegal im­mi­grants have no obli­ga­tion to an­swer of­fi­cers’ ques­tions about their sta­tus.

“Lo­cal po­lice are not per­mit­ted to ar­rest, hold, or turn over some­one based on in­for­ma­tion or sus­pi­cion about im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus. That means that any­one ques­tioned by lo­cal po­lice about im­mi­gra­tion does not have to an­swer the ques­tions,” said the Na­tional His­panic Lead­er­ship Agenda.

Ari­zona pi­o­neered a po­lice-im­mi­gra­tion checks law in 2010, pass­ing what was known as SB1070.

That law went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the jus­tices in a ma­jor 2012 rul­ing erased the parts that called for stiff state penal­ties on illegal im­mi­grants, but left in place a pro­vi­sion re­quir­ing po­lice to in­quire about im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

In the years since, the state has agreed to lim­its on how po­lice use the law, con­sis­tent with what the Supreme Court said: stops can­not be pro­longed to check on im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, and those ques­tioned can’t be tar­geted on the ba­sis of race or eth­nic­ity.

Whether the law has made any dif­fer­ence, how­ever, is ques­tion­able.

In the years im­me­di­ately af­ter the law, its au­thor, for­mer state Sen. Rus­sell Pearce, said the crime rate in Phoenix reached a 30-year low.

But the Ari­zona Repub­lic, in a fact-check last year, said it was im­pos­si­ble to at­tribute any drop in the crime rate to the law. The news­pa­per said crime in the state did fall ei­ther 9 or 13 per­cent, de­pend­ing on whether state or FBI sta­tis­tics were used, but it wasn’t clear that SB1070 was the cause.

The unau­tho­rized mi­grant pop­u­la­tion also dropped — though it had been fall­ing since even be­fore the law, in what an­a­lysts say was likely a reaction to the slump­ing econ­omy from the Wall Street col­lapse.


Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton says the con­tro­ver­sial anti-sanc­tu­ary city law was the re­sult of care­ful de­lib­er­a­tions.

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