The recent Sanctuary Cities Act being drawn up in Texas is among the harshest of its kind in the country.
The legislation was enthusiastically backed by Governor Greg Abbott but is facing an uncertain future amid opposition from cities and legal challenges.
Austin and San Antonio have joined the list of cities suing the state of Texas over the immigration law which has been branded the harshest in the country.
An article in Think Progress noted San Antonio’s lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
MALDEF is no stranger to bringing immigration lawsuits. The litigation was filed on behalf of the City of San Antonio and three nonprofits.
MALDEF argues SB4, which targets “sanctuary cities,” is unconstitutional.
Most controversially, SB4 opens up law enforcement officials who fail to comply with federal detainer requests to Class A misdemeanors.
The law was drafted with jurisdictions like Travis County in mind. In Austin, the new sheriff Sally Hernandez has implemented a policy to only comply with federal detainer requests in the case of serious offenders. The detainers allow people held in local jails to remain there for up to 48 hours while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) checks their immigration status.
Officials who fail to comply with the Texas law can be punished with a fine of $4,000 or up to a year in prison. Cities, police departments, and even college campuses can face civil penalties of up to $25,500 a day. Officials can be removed from office under the law.
MALDEF said the new law contains numerous constitutional violations.
In Austin, Mayor Steve Adler announced the city would also be challenging SB4.
The mayor described the new law as a danger to residents and said victims seeking police help might no longer come forward.
Adler took an uncompromising stance on the new Texas legislation. He said:
“We want our day in court because for far too long the Texas Legislature has been playing political football with the safety of our city and now we get to move to a different forum. One of the main impetuses behind the city filing suit is the keen and earnest desire to keep this community safe.”
Texas’ new law against sanctuary cities is in line with national efforts but it goes even further. The federal government is also seeking to crack down on sanctuary cities but it is limited in its powers to defund them.
These are uncertain and frightening times to be an immigrant. If you need help on any immigration matter, call our Austin family immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.