Ruling allows part of Texas sanctuary cities bill to go into effect

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will allow Texas to enforce part of its sanctuary cities law while it appeals a lower court ruling that blocked it from going into effect.

Senate Bill 4 banned sanctuary cities and allows law enforcement agencies in Texas to 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 law was scheduled to take effect Sept. 1, but a district judge granted a preliminary injunction two days before that would stop it from going into effect while the federal lawsuit was pending.

The 5th Circuit Court panel voted 3-0 to stop part of the injunction while the state appeals. It will specifically allow the part of the law requiring local governments to comply with federal immigration detainer requests to go into effect.

“The “comply with, honor, and fulfill” requirement does not require detention pursuant to every ICE detainer request; rather, the “comply with, honor, and fulfill” provision mandates that local agencies cooperate according to existing ICE detainer practice and law,” the judges wrote.

In response, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said her department’s policy has been updated to comply with the court’s findings. “Contrary to the state’s position,” Hernandez said, “SB4 is neither clear nor simple.”

Hernandez said she looks forward to clarification from the court’s oral arguments in November. The sheriff said in May she would follow SB 4 once signed into law. In January, Hernandez introduced a sheriff’s office policy that limited how they would work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the move and said he was confident SB 4 will be found constitutional and upheld in later court rulings.

“We are pleased today’s 5th Circuit ruling will allow Texas to strengthen public safety by implementing the key components of Senate Bill 4,” Paxton wrote in a statement. “Enforcing immigration law helps prevent dangerous criminals from being released into Texas communities.”

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said the court’s decision has left law enforcement statewide in confusion about what it means to “comply with, honor and fulfill” immigration detainer requests.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Manny Garcia said the state had no business telling sheriffs and police chiefs “to ignore our neighborhoods and do the Trump administration’s bidding on deportation…”

He continued, “It is a shame that anything in this racist Republican bill will take effect.”

A hearing on the state’s appeal is scheduled for Nov. 6.

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