Texas Immigration Crackdown Can Move Forward, Judges Rule

Texas Immigration Crackdown Can Move Forward, Judges Rule

A federal court has ruled that part of Senate Bill 4 (the "anti-sanctuary cities" law) can go into effect while a case over the legality of the law itself plays out in court.

The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans comes almost a month after a lower judge blocked most of the law signed in May by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday issued an emergency stay of the ruling by a San Antonio federal judge that halted penalties for local jails that don't honor requests by immigration authorities to hold people suspected of being immigrants subject to deportation.

The court left in place other parts of Garcia's injunction against provisions of SB4 that would have punished local governments and officials who "materially limit" enforcement of immigration laws by local police and "endorse" policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws.

But the appeals court also continued to block.

"We interpret (the ruling) to mean that because ICE detainers are a matter of voluntary compliance under federal law, they remain so", said Celina Moreno, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is representing several plaintiffs that have sued to overturn SB 4.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the court's decision.

Now allowed are provisions in the law that bar city and county officials from prohibiting employees from sharing information with ICE.

Texas Republican leaders have not identified any sanctuary cities in the state. After reading the ruling shortly after it came out Monday afternoon, Garza said he thinks it allows local jails some leeway about when they honor detainer requests.

Detainer requests are one of the reasons so many cities, counties, and law enforcement officials have been against SB 4, since holding people in jail even when they're legally free to go butts heads with the Constitution - and it's an economic burden.

But Monday's unanimous ruling by the three 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges reversed two parts of Garcia's injunction.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia blocked much of the law on August 31, a day before it was to take effect.

"We are pleased today's 5th Circuit ruling will allow Texas to strengthen public safety by implementing the key components of Senate Bill 4", Paxton said in a statement Monday.

During his State of the State address in January, Gov. Greg Abbott said that SB 4 was necessary to "protect Texans from deadly danger", and he fast-tracked the bill.

Efrén Olivares, a Texas Civil Rights Project program director, said that the group would be working with cities, counties and college campuses across the state to ensure that Texans' civil rights are not violated with the implementation of SB 4, as the group prepares for the next hearing, scheduled for November 6.