By David Wilfong
NDG Special Contributor
One small border city in Texas is standing up to the recently passed Texas SB 4, which seeks to end the practice of “sanctuary cities” in the state and compel local law enforcement agencies and elected officials to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Although El Cenizo was the first, San Antonio and Austin later filed lawsuits last week and on June 7 after a closed-door briefing, Mayor Mike Rawlings announced the City of Dallas is joining their lawsuit.
The law was opposed by many community leaders and even law enforcement across the state, suggesting that the lack of trust between immigrants and local-level authorities could lead to a drop in public safety as well as potential violations of civil rights for Hispanics who are legal residents and citizens.
“As the leader of a diverse community along the South Texas border, I am challenging SB4 because it will undo the decades of work to build trust with the immigrant community and to use our scarce resources to increase public safety,” said Raul Reyes, mayor of El Cenizo. “We will not be part of Trump’s deportation force. This lawsuit will give a voice to the people and families that live in fear because of SB4.”
Reyes may be the first to step up to the legal plate to challenge the new law, but he will not be alone in doing so. On May 25 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas joined into the legal action, and ACLU leaders say they are looking forward to stepping into a courtroom on the matter.
“By joining as co-counsel for the City of El Cenizo, Mayor Reyes, and the other courageous plaintiffs who sued the state, we aim to protect the civil liberties of immigrant communities,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “The Constitution does not allow the State of Texas to enact laws that threaten immigrants and the local officials entrusted to protect them. Today, we assert our resistance to the state’s pervasive attacks on vulnerable people and say to Gov. Abbott, see you in court.”
While the Dallas City Council met behind closed doors, SB 4 opponents held an indoor protest in the Council chambers, chanting “No SB 4.” While making his announcement, Dallas Mayor Rawlings described the bill as “unconstitutional and would infringe upon the city’s ability to protect public safety.”
“Everyday, more communities join the fight against SB 4, and our movement will only continue to grow,” said Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project. “We applaud the city of Dallas for standing with Texas families against SB 4.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, one of many Republicans who supported such a measure since before the most recent legislative session began, has repeatedly asserted that he is very pro-immigration, but that immigration must be legal and regulated. Pointing to crimes that have been committed by undocumented immigrants in Texas and elsewhere, clamping down on illegal entry into the country has come to the forefront of issues for many GOP lawmakers.
The El Cenizo lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. The ACLU will also be joined at the bench by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
Additional reporting by Ruth Ferguson