Court Says Texas Ban On So-Called Sanctuary Cities Can Stand For Now

Jay Janner  Austin American-Statesman  AP

The White House has been blocked by judges elsewhere in the country from taking away federal funding from cities that shelter undocumented immigrants, whom President Donald Trump has characterized as interlopers that take jobs and social services that rightfully belong to USA citizens.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which represents some of the plaintiffs in the SB 4 case, said it was considering how to move forward.

The exception is a provision that punishes local officials for "endorsing" policies that limit federal immigration enforcement.

"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. This month, the administration sued California, accusing it of trying to "obstruct the United States' enforcement of federal immigration law".

So-called sanctuary cities often do not use municipal funds or resources to enforce federal immigration laws. "SB4 accomplishes the same goal on a state-wide level". Critics also fear it will lead to the racial profiling of Hispanics and put officers in untenable positions. Police chiefs, sheriffs and constables could also face removal from office for failing to comply with such federal "detainer" requests.

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The ruling leaves the door open for future challengers, who will have to violate Texas's ban and suffer consequences to gain the legal right to sue, the appellate judges said.

"We will be monitoring the situation on the ground closely", Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement. "So we need to respond and act, within the law, to preserve as much of that trust as possible". Several of the nation's largest cities - including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco - have adopted sanctuary policies, and three months into Mr. Trump's presidency, the Justice Department threatened to cut funding to such cities.

Mike Siegel, assistant city attorney in Austin and a Democratic candidate for Congress, tweeted that Tuesday's ruling is a "terrible result". But she said her department would follow the law as directed by the courts.

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the decision, saying in a statement: 'Enforcing immigration law prevents the release of individuals from custody who have been charged with serious crimes'. That case was filed March 6 in federal court in Sacramento, the state capital.

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.

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