By Ruth Ferguson, NDG Editor
A federal court has issued a ruling temporarily preventing Texas’ so-called “sanctuary cities” bill Senate Bill 4 from going into effect on Sept. 1 as planned. The law faced opposition from several major cities in Texas including Dallas, Houston Austin and San Antonio with the cities together filing the lawsuit ruled on Wednesday night. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio suggested the law passed by the Texas Legislators earlier this year overstepped boundaries.
“However, the state may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution,” Judge Garcia wrote in his 94-page decision granting the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. Given the feedback from business leaders concerned about available labor pool, the judge stated there “is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe.”
Local police officers would be allowed to ask about an individual’s immigration status even when stopped for a traffic citation. NDG reported earlier this spring that the bill calls for an end to any “policies, patterns, or practices that prohibit the enforcement of state or federal immigration law” among local government entities such as municipalities. Any police chiefs not agreeing to comply with the law would possibly face criminal charges and removal from office.
“This is an important victory for the people of the State of Texas. Ensuring the safety of our communities should be the number one priority of local law enforcement, not enforcing federal immigration laws,” Texas State Rep. Eric Johnson said in a statement to the North Dallas Gazette.
Nolan Adams, NDG contributing writer, and community activist found the ruling encouraging.
“Throughout history, SB4 represents just one of the many oppressive policies that has targeted the Latino population. We will continue to fight, and we will continue to overcome. In the words of Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, leader of the Chicano Movement, ‘I have endured in the rugged mountains Of our country I have survived the toils and slavery of the fields. I have existed In the barrios of the city In the suburbs of bigotry In the mines of social snobbery In the prisons of dejection In the muck of exploitation And In the fierce heat of racial hatred. . . . I SHALL ENDURE! I WILL ENDURE!’ according to Adams.
Governor Gregg Abbott, who despite calls from immigration and business leaders, signed the controversial bill into law, warns the fight is not over.
“U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side. This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld,” according to Abbott in a statement on the court’s ruling.
“Senate Bill 4 was passed by the Texas Legislature to set a statewide policy of cooperation with federal immigration authorities enforcing our nation’s immigration laws,” Attorney General Paxton said in a press release Wednesday night. “Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”
“This decision today feels like a ray of sunshine, and Texans, especially undocumented Texans, deserve a reprieve in what has been a steady assault on their families,” according to Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Education Fund.
However, she acknowledges this victory, does not mean the war is won.
“We recognize this is just the first step in what we expect to be a protracted legal battle. Today, we will take a deep sigh of relief, and tomorrow we will keep fighting to stop SB4 in the courts and win proactive solutions that protect the freedom and dignity of undocumented families and all people of color,” Tremillo stated.
“Today’s ruling means that the onerous provisions of SB 4 are likely unconstitutional and will not take effect on Friday. The law is effectively dead until the court rules otherwise,” according to State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez via a released statement.
Hurricane Harvey raised new concerns about SB4
Immigration leaders were concerned Latino Hurricane Harvey survivors may feel nervous about signing up for assistance. Earlier today, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who led the decision to join the lawsuit, tried to address concerns evacuees in the Dallas area may have about seeking assistance. Via Facebook he stated, no one would be questioned about their about their legal status.
“But this is no time for celebration. Hurricane Harvey is a natural disaster the likes of which we have never seen. The rescue effort is ongoing and lives continue to hang in the balance,” Rep. Rodriguez added after tonight’s ruling.
Others agreed, including Efrén C. Olivares, Racial & Economic Justice Program Director with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
“We don’t have to look far to see the real-life effects of this anti-immigrant laws. Instead of focusing on their safety, hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families in Houston’s rising flood waters worried about facing deportation. Thanks to the efforts of Houston officials and the police department, the fears were quickly addressed. But this should never happen in the first place. We will celebrate this community victory and continue to fight back against all attempts to target immigrant communities in Texas,” Olivares stated.