Court upholds majority of 'sanctuary cities' law

A massive protest engulfs the Capitol Rotunda as anti-SB 4 protesters rally

A Texas immigration crackdown on "sanctuary cities" took effect Tuesday after a federal appeals court upheld a divisive law backed by the Trump administration that threatens elected officials with jail time and allows police officers to ask people during routine stops whether they're in the USA illegally.

A U.S. District Court in San Antonio granted a preliminary injunction of Senate Bill 4 on August 30, just two days before it was scheduled to take effect.

The measure proposes to prohibit local authorities from limiting their cooperation with federal immigration agencies and calls on local police to respond promptly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests.

The law, known as Senate Bill 4, calls for jail for police chiefs, sheriffs and possibly frontline officers who fail to cooperate over US immigration.


But he did not halt the part of the bill that says police chiefs, sheriffs and other department heads can not forbid officers from questioning a person's immigration status, which means that Texas has been what opponents of the measure call a "papers please" state since the law took effect. SB 4 allows law enforcement to question the immigration status of people who have been detained or are under arrest. The Justice Department recently filed a lawsuit against California, claiming the state is hindering federal enforcement of immigration laws. Allegations of discrimination were rejected.

Lawyers for Texas said the law helped ensure conformity across the state on the application of immigration law and prevented localities from adopting positions of non-cooperation with federal authorities.

The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, and Gov. Greg Abbott praised the decision in statements on Tuesday. "Risky criminals shouldn't be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes". Sanctuary supporters say enlisting police in deportation actions undermines community trust in local law enforcement, particularly among Latinos.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which is helping with the case against the law, said after the ruling that it will look at challenging its enforcement, rather than the law itself, now that it is going into effect. The first step in an appeal would most likely be to request a review by the full Fifth Circuit court. "We are also pleased that the court narrowed the law in certain respects".

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