A federal judge in Texas blocked important parts of SB 4, a controversial piece of legislation which effectively outlawed sanctuary cities and would have let law enforcement request proof of U.S. citizenship or residency at traffic stops.
The ruling prevents the state from enforcing most of the law’s mandates until its merits can further be evaluated.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia made the decision just two days before the September 1st deadline to implement the law was reached.
Judge Garcia’s verdict strikes a major blow against the efforts of Texas Governor Greg Abbott to aggressively move against illegal immigration.
Abbott’s efforts – however controversial – were largely in line with the Trump administration’s take on immigration. The president and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions began escalating their rhetoric against sanctuary cities over the summer.
Sessions has been particularly vehement about sanctuary cities, lambasting the political leadership of Chicago and Philadelphia for refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The nation’s most powerful prosecutor blamed crime in Pennsylvania’s biggest city on sanctuary policies, saying Mayor Jim Kenney was letting MS-13 run rampant in the streets.
Concerns about crime and order were behind Abbott’s endeavor in Texas.
Despite the governor’s support of the bill, a number of the state’s most populous municipalities filed a lawsuit to block its implementation.
Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and Austin, and among others, all joined in litigation meant to stop SB4 from becoming the law of the land.
“Their cumulative population exceeds six million people,” Garcia wrote in his ruling. “This is representative of the public opposition to SB 4 and the overwhelming public concern about its detrimental effect.”
While ordering that the ban on sanctuary cities be put temporarily on hold, Garcia still allowed the portion of the bill concerning immigration checks in routine police encounters to proceed on into practice. However, he didn’t give the green light to a section of the legislation which would permit the fining and prosecution of law enforcement officials who don’t cooperate with the federal government on immigration checks.
Undeterred by what may spell the end for SB4, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton promised to keep on fighting.
“Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens,” he wrote in a statement. “We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”
Paxton and Abbott, like many critics of sanctuary city policies, claim that turning a blind eye toward immigration offenses can increase crime and let dangerous individuals dodge deportation.
Proponents of pro-immigration policy say that allowing unauthorized aliens to testify in court and report crimes without having to fear being locked up can only make cities safer.
“This week’s crisis with Hurricane Harvey is just the most recent example why people need to feel safe approaching our local police and support groups, no matter what,” wrote the Democratic mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, in a statement.