“The law is already in effect.” With these words, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, celebrated on Tuesday the ratification of the SB4 law, that prohibits sanctuary cities in the state and allows much stricter controls on immigrants.
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit determined that most of SB4 can remain standing. The regulation allows local officials to inquire about the immigration status of detainees and punishes local governments and elected representatives who do not cooperate with immigration authorities.
Adoption, compliance and support
The only part of the law that was still blocked by the court was the one that mentions the “adoption, compliance and support” of policies that specifically limit or prohibit compliance. The magistrates put the enfasis on the word “support” and said that punishing this with a fine, imprisonment or dismissal can violate the rights of the authorities to free expression.
Under SB4, sheriffs, police chiefs and other community leaders can be charged with a misdemeanor (with jail terms) if they do not cooperate. They can also face fines of between 1,000 to 25,000 dollars.
“Now more than ever it is critical that all Texans know their rights.” The Fifth Circuit’s decision, although frustrating, does not change the fact that we all have rights, the most important thing is the right to remain silent when questioned. by the police regarding their immigration status, “said Andre Segura, legal director of the American Civil Liberties and Rights Union (ACLU) of Texas.
The law is one of the most controversial in recent Texas history. So much so that Abbott did not enact it at a public event in May 2017, but he did so through Facebook live, despite the strong support he received from the most extreme Republican base.
As soon as the governor signed, the city of El Cenizo in Maverick County sued the state, receiving support from major Texas cities such as Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
On August 30, the San Antonio district court filed the first injunction against SB4, two days before it went into effect. On September 25th, three judges of the Fifth Circuit Court determined that Texas could enforce the essential provisions of the law while awaiting another ruling. The debate resumed in November and reached a resolution on Tuesday.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton highlighted the success of the legislation on Tuesday. “Enforcing immigration laws prevents the release of individuals in custody who have been charged with serious crimes, and we must not allow dangerous criminals to return to our communities to commit more crimes,” he said.
Civil rights organizations in Texas acknowledged the defeat and are now regrouping for the new reality of living with SB4.
“The arrests and deportations will accelerate,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.
Benjamin Diaz started working for Debate Report in 2017. Ben grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife a year later. Benhas been a proud Torontonian for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for CTV News and the Huffington Post Canada.