Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas sanctuary cities law

Various city and county officials supporting litigation against SB4 on May 16, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)
Various city and county officials supporting litigation against SB4 on May 16, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

SAN ANTONIO (KXAN) — A federal district judge in San Antonio has put a preliminary stop to Senate Bill 4, known as the sanctuary cities law.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler welcomed the decision, saying the ruling is good for Austin because SB4 would make the city less safe. “This week’s crisis with Hurricane Harvey is just the most recent example why people need to feel safe approaching our local police and support groups, no matter what.”

He continued, “If people in Austin do not feel safe asking for help, they become more vulnerable to crime, not just natural disasters.”

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia granted the preliminary injunction Wednesday, just two days before the law was scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1.

The Texas Tribune reports the judge’s decision, while temporary, is a significant blow to Gov. Greg Abbott, who championed the legislation and argued it would keep Texans safe from undocumented immigrants charged with crimes.

“Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities,” the governor said in response to the injunction.

Abbott said the decision will be immediately appealed and, he believes, the law will be found constitution and ultimately upheld. The state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said that Texas has the sovereign authority to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens.

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.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who faced off with the governor over the law, said she was pleased by the ruling. “I believe that local communities are stronger and safer when justice and security are a reality, not for some, but for all. I look forward to the ultimate resolution,” she said.

Last week, the city of San Marcos joined other cities including Austin and San Antonio in challenging the law in court.

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