State Watch

Federal judge temporarily halts Texas sanctuary city ban

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A federal district judge on Wednesday ruled to temporarily block a new Texas law that would have banned sanctuary cities in the state, just two days before the law was set to take effect.

Federal District Court Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction of the sanctuary cities ban, Senate Bill 4, saying in his ruling that the law would have eroded the relationship between local law enforcement and immigrant communities. 
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,” adding that “localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, will harm the state of Texas.”
{mosads}The new law was pre-empted by federal immigration law, which supersedes state law, the judge found.

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

Garcia, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, is the chief United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

The law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in May, allows Texas state officials to fine local officials who implement policies aimed at limiting enforcement of federal immigration laws. State officials can even remove those local officials from office, the bill says.
Proponents of the bill said the judge’s ruling put Texas residents at risk.
“Today’s decision makes Texas’s communities less safe,” Abbott said. “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals … will be set free to prey upon our communities.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who would have the power to impose sanctions and remove local officials under the new law, said his state has the “sovereign authority and responsibility” to protect its citizens. He said his office would appeal the ruling.
Paxton had asked to consolidate several suits against the ban on sanctuary cities in federal court in Austin, 80 or so miles from Garcia’s courtroom in San Antonio.
Opponents of the bill said Wednesday’s ruling came at the right time, just hours before the law was scheduled to go into effect on Friday. The suit was brought by some of the largest cities and counties in Texas, including San Antonio, El Paso County, Austin, Travis County, Houston and other groups.
“The court was right to strike down virtually all of this patently unconstitutional bill,” said Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants Rights Project, who argued the case on behalf of those who opposed the bill. “Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe.”
“Proponents of SB4 failed to grasp the detrimental impact this bill will have on every community in Texas,” state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D) said in a statement. “SB4 was never about making us safer.”
— Updated 10:40 p.m.
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