“I believe it was premature for the majority of City Council to give direction for city staff to join in a lawsuit against the SB4 legislation. In this case, the prudent course would be to wait until a decision has been made on whether a special session will be called. Additionally, I believe that any decision to join this lawsuit should be made in coordination with other major Texas cities, which is why I have consulted with Mayors Adler (Austin), Turner (Houston) and Rawlings (Dallas). We should be certain that litigation is the measure of last resort and that the city is bearing its fair share of any legal burden. None of these conditions have been satisfied, which is why I continue to oppose City Council’s decision to join this lawsuit.”—
Councilman Rey Saldaña announced late Wednesday that city leaders have approved a lawsuit against the state of Texas over a new law that will extend the reach of federal immigration enforcement into local police departments, making San Antonio the largest city in the state to sue over Gov. Greg Abbott's crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities."
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund plans to file a lawsuit in San Antonio federal court this week on behalf of the city after council members approved legal action in executive session last week. The lawsuit dovetails with calls from activists and city leaders across the state for a "summer of resistance" against the law. Activists protesting Senate Bill 4 which Abbott signed into law last month, flooded the Texas Capitol on the final day of the legislative session Monday, leading to a tense standoff on the Texas House floor during which a conservative state lawmaker threatened to shoot a fellow legislator in the head after reporting protestors to federal immigration officials.
San Antonio's lawsuit will try to block the state from implementing SB 4, which is slated to go into effect September 1 and would force cities like San Antonio to scrap current policies that prohibit cops from asking about immigration status in routine law enforcement encounters. Opponents have warned the law is so broad that local police officials would be powerless to stop cops from asking about citizenship during even traffic stops if they want to. San Antonio Police Chief William McManus had been among the chorus of Texas' big-city chiefs who urged lawmakers not to pass SB 4, saying it could drive immigrants into the shadows and make them afraid to report crime.
San Antonio would be just the latest jurisdiction to challenge the state over the law. LULAC, Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo, a tiny border town that is likely the state's oldest "sanctuary city," were the first to sue shortly after Abbott signed the law. Last week, El Paso County officials joined forces with the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund (which is being represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project) in suing to block SB 4, arguing the law would violate due process rights and constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Austin City Council has also voted to sue over the law.
Marisa Bono, MALDEF regional council, told the Current last week that attorneys plan on arguing that the law is both unconstitutional and would cause significant harm to the City of San Antonio: "This law has a big impact not just on immigrants, not just on city residents who will get profiled, but also because a major part of our industry is tourism and this law could genuinely scare people away."
In a prepared statement, Saldaña decried the law as unconstitutional and discriminatory:
"We fought Senate Bill 4 at the legislature and now we will fight it in the courtroom. I am pleased to know that the City of San Antonio will no longer stand by and allow our community to be bullied by the threat of this unconstitutional and discriminatory law. Let us see how Senate Bill 4, the most draconian anti-immigrant law in the country, stands up to the Texas cities ready to defend their communities and the toughest litigators in the nation from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)."Read more about what Texas' crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities" means in the Trump Era.