San Marcos joins in on SB4 legal battle

People against SB4 at San Marcos City Council meeting. (KXAN Photo)
People against SB4 at San Marcos City Council meeting. (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN/AP) — After standing on the sidelines, the city of San Marcos is joining the federal lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 4 which takes effect Sept. 1.

The new law would let police ask people about their immigration status during routine traffic stops. It also threatens elected officials with removal from office if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The city previously decided unanimously not to join the likes of Austin and San Antonio in the suit.

The city council cited two main concerns with the bill. One claiming SB4 will damage cooperation between the police and the community and second that the statute is vaguely written and does not provide clear boundaries for elected officials and city employees.

During a special meeting Tuesday, city council approved a measure to write the Amicus (or friend of the court) brief. The mayor says a big part of approving the brief is due to concerns about freedom of speech. SB4 states, “a local entity or campus police department may not adopt, enforce, or endorse a policy under which the entity or department prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws.” Thomaides says the council was confused about the wording in the bill, which is why they did not go forward with writing the brief last week.

“Last week, we were trying to follow the law and we were trying to craft a statement that didn’t run afoul of the law while getting our opinion across about the law. Again, because the law has these gag provisions, it didn’t allow us to say what we truly felt and that’s unfortunate. It’s just a confusing situation when you have a law that doesn’t let you express opinions of opposition to a law and that’s got to be concerning for all Texans that laws might be written that way.”

To hear the council vote in favor to file a brief was overwhelming for those who crammed into city hall early Tuesday morning.

“We’ve been working for about three months now,” said SB 4 opponent Karen Munoz. “I’m just really overcome with emotion.”

Although just 10 days away from the bill becoming law, opponents say it’s better late than never.

“We are really incredibly proud of everybody who pushed council to make the right decision,” said Munoz.

The city is writing the document to join the case today and could file it as early as Wednesday.

In a statement, State. Rep. Jason Isaac responded to the mayor of San Marcos, saying, “Although this law has been vilified in the media, the facts reveal that SB 4 is reasonable measure to ensure truly violent criminals are kept off the streets.”

The statement continues by saying state law under the provision of SB 4 requires law enforcement entities to honor ICE detainers for “criminal aliens.” It adds that the law does not target or affect people who have entered the United State illegally but are otherwise productive and law-abiding members of society.

“I urge you to reconsider this decision and join the State of Texas in its commitment to uphold the rule of law,” said Isaac.

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