Court Blocks Senate Bill 4

Allan Goodman
September 1, 2017

US District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio ruled that the law, known as SB 4, was vague and could "create a real danger of arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement", the My San Antonio news site reported.

Judge Garcia did allow the bill's provision to allow local law enforcement officers to ask people detained for traffic stops and minor offenses about their immigration status, but he also those powers couldn't be abused as an excuse to detain suspects. Local governments in other cities, including San Marcos, Rio Grande and Laredo, voted to support the lawsuit by filing amicus briefs, or legal documents in opposition to SB 4.

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More than 400 jurisdictions across the U.S., including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Seattle, have enacted policies protecting undocumented immigrants.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the ruling was good for the city and used the events surrounding Hurricane Harvey as an example of how laws like Senate Bill 4 could hurt a community.

The judge added, "As the State concedes, local jurisdictions have been cooperating with federal immigration authorities for decades". Texas was set to require both local police forces and public colleges to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, with police chiefs and sheriffs who refused facing possible prosecution.

"Because of this ruling", Texas Governor Gregg Abbot wrote in response, "gang members and risky criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities". "A person who "endorses" a policy that prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws can not express his/her ideas, thoughts, views and beliefs without the real threat of punishment.This is the epitome of viewpoint discrimination".

In his ruling, Garcia wrote that although police can ask about immigration status of a person "under a lawful detention or under an arrest", as described in the law, there's very little police can do after that.

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Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was not happy.

The case is likely to be appealed by Texas and may end up in the United States supreme court.

After offering my personal testimony about the many ways in which Senate Bill 4 violates basic constitutional rights and listening to the leaders of several law enforcement agencies emphasize how this bill puts public safety at risk, I'm pleased to see today's judgement.

"Although this law has been vilified in the media, the facts reveal that SB 4 is a reasonable measure to ensure truly violent criminals are kept off our streets", he said in a statement.

He said he would immediately appeal the decision and was confident the law would eventually be upheld. "Judge Garcia correctly realized that [Senate Bill 4] is an unconstitutional "solution" in search of a problem that would ultimately make Travis County and all of Texas less safe".

"As Sheriff, I should be free to enforce the law and protect my community without fear of being unconstitutionally removed from office."

State Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Conference, disputed the claim made by bill proponents that SB 4 is about stopping crime.

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