Federal Appeals Court Says Texas' Anti-Sanctuary Cities Law Can Go Into Effect

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Community activists have organized against SB4, arguing it will harm police relations with minority communities. - MONICA SIMMONS
  • Monica Simmons
  • Community activists have organized against SB4, arguing it will harm police relations with minority communities.
A federal appeals court ruled late yesterday that Texas' ban on sanctuary cities can go into effect even as legal challenges to the law move forward. The three-judge panel maintained that opponents of the measure aren't likely to win on the merits of their case.

The unanimous ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reverses an August ruling by Orlando L. Garcia of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio, who implemented a temporary block on enforcing the law.

SB4 passed by the Texas Legislature last spring, requiring police chiefs and sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials. It also permits police to question the immigration status of anyone they arrest. Republican lawmakers and Gov. Greg Abbott championed the legislation to push back at sanctuary cities, which restrict their officers from cooperating in the feds' immigration enforcement efforts.

While the appeals court leaves most of SB4 in effect, it did reject a provision in the law that stops local officials from “endorsing” policies aimed at curbing immigration enforcement. Legal scholars argued that the order is a First Amendment violation and the legal panel agreed.

“While I’m deeply disappointed by the Fifth Circuit’s decision, San Antonio will remain a welcoming and compassionate city as we continue to honor the law, including individual civil rights," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a written statement.

Stay tuned for analysis about how the decision is likely to affect relationships between local minority communities and law enforcement officials.

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