A federal judge blocked parts of Texas's strict new immigration crackdown law late Wednesday, ruling that the state can not attempt to punish sanctuary cities for refusing to turn illegal immigrants over to federal authorities for deportation.
Houston, Texas Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) praised a federal judge's decision to temporarily block the implementation of the state's law banning sanctuary cities. Greg Abbott signed in May, would have required jurisdictions to cooperate with all warrantless federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants booked into local jails.
The court did not, however, enjoin one of the parts of SB 4 that attracted the most controversy when the bill was passed earlier this summer: the provision that forces local police departments to allow officers to ask about the immigration status of residents during a detention or arrest.
The federal order also blocked part of the law that prohibited local officials from adopting or endorsing policies that "materially limit the enforcement of immigration laws", calling that portion of the legislation vague. And he wrote that cities and towns had provided "overwhelming" and "ample" evidence that cooperating with immigration officials will "erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe" as well as harm the state economically. Garcia also wrote that while the state legislature can ignore the "knowledge and experience" of local officials, it cannot "exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution".
The law was supposed to go into effect September 1.
Bracing for the law, passed by the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature during the regular session despite opposition from hundreds, immigrant communities in Austin and elsewhere have already experienced the unsafe effects of the new rules, including failing to report crime and domestic abuse due to fear of deportation.
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In fact, it's possible the case over Texas's sanctuary cities ban goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and sets legal precedent for other states considering one. Garcia blocked those provisions, arguing the detainer provision could violate a person's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The controversial law, SB 4, is believed to be unconstitutional by its opponents.
There is an attitude among some who want more enforcement of immigration laws that a person in the country illegally has no rights and can be treated as a convicted criminal.
Major Democrat-run cities in Texas including Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas joined the challenge to the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in May. Its backers describe it as a measure to keep risky criminals off the streets and ensure consistent and efficient co-operation between local and federal law enforcement.
Jose P. Garza, Worker's Defense Project, said, "Today, Texas families won the first of many battles against Gov. Abbott and his racist agenda".
The case is likely to be appealed by Texas and may end up in the U.S. supreme court. "This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas' law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld". "We joined the lawsuit against SB 4 because we know that the law is discriminatory and can not be implemented without racial profiling".