Court upholds most of Texas law cracking down on "sanctuary cities"

Wednesday, 14 Mar, 2018

Lee Gelernt, the deputy director for the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant's Rights Project, said the organization was disappointed in the ruling but would closely monitor how it is implemented.

The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that a provision of the law that prohibits local governments from "endorsing" a policy contrary to federal immigration laws was unconstitutionally vague.

The law, one of the most controversial in recent Texas Legislature history, came after Abbott declared the legislation a priority item early during last year's 85th legislative session.

Plaintiffs including the cities of Houston, Dallas and Austin said the provision would allow the state to remove duly elected officials if they criticized the measure, a violation of constitutional free-speech protections.

In August 2017, Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio found the legislation was unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny and blocked sections of the law just days before it was to take effect.

It also threatens officials with jail time for not cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

In Arizona v. the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Arizona could allow state police to investigate the immigration status of individuals who had been legally detained or arrested if there was a reasonable suspicion that the person was in the country illegally.

A separate panel of judges ruled in September that the detainer provision could stand until a final determination was made. It also allows police to ask about immigration status during a lawful detention, such as traffic stops.

After Tuesday's ruling was announced, Abbott updated his followers on Twitter, highlighting that claims the bill would lead to racial profiling were rejected. "It would be wrong to assume that SB4 (the sanctuary cities law) authorizes unreasonable conduct where the statute's text does not require it", the court wrote in its opinion. "Allegations of discrimination were rejected. Law is in effect".

Lawyers for Texas said the law helped ensure conformity across the state on the application of immigration law and prevented localities from adopting positions of non-cooperation with federal authorities. "Risky criminals shouldn't be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes".