Federal appeals court rules on Texas ban of sanctuary cities

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Republicans supporting the state’s crackdown on sanctuary cities were handed a victory Tuesday, after the U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals, consisting of three judges, ruled that most of the state’s immigration enforcement legislation can remain in effect.

The Texas Tribune reported: As passed, Senate Bill 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and punishes local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation — in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000. 

The one part of SB4 that is still on hold is a provision that punishes local officials from “adopting, enforcing or endorsing” policies that specifically prohibit or limit enforcement of immigration laws. The judges kept that injunction in place, but said it only applies to the word “endorse.” The bill, as passed and signed, would have made elected and appointed officials subject to a fine, jail time and possible removal from office for violating all or parts of the legislation. 

Governor Abbott posted a statement on Twitter, writing, “BREAKNG: Texas Ban on Sanctuary City Policies upheld by Federal Court of Appeals. Allegations of discrimination were rejected. Law is in effect.”

CLICK HERE to view the entire 5th Circuit ruling.

 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement on his website praising the ruling:

“I’m pleased the 5th Circuit recognized that Senate Bill 4 is lawful, constitutional and protects the safety of law enforcement officers and all Texans,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Enforcing immigration law prevents the release of individuals from custody who have been charged with serious crimes. Dangerous criminals shouldn’t be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes.”

In its decision, the 5th Circuit said “With one exception, SB 4’s provisions do not, on their face, violate the Constitution. For the following reasons, we uphold the statute in its entirety except for the application of the “endorsement” prohibition, Tex. Gov’t Code § 752.053(a)(1), to elected officials.”

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. On September 25, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled that Texas could enforce key provisions of Senate Bill 4 while it appealed the lower court ruling. On November 7, the attorney general’s office presented its oral argument before a panel of the 5th Circuit in defense of Senate Bill 4. The Attorney General’s office is the key enforcement agency for SB 4 and is accepting complaints regarding entities that violate the law.

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