Austin to formally sue state Friday over SB 4 ‘sanctuary cities’ ban


Highlights

The city of Austin is expected to sue the state of Texas over Senate Bill 4 on Friday.

Austin will join a lawsuit filed by the city of San Antonio and advocacy groups on Thursday.

The suit’s main challenge is that SB 4 violates the Constitution because states cannot make immigration law.

The city of Austin will sue the state of Texas on Friday over Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities ban, challenging the constitutionality of the controversial law, City Council Member Greg Casar said.

The city of San Antonio, the Workers Defense Project and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund also announced challenges to SB 4 on Thursday, officials said.

“It is illegal, unconstitutional and fundamentally flawed,” MALDEF regional counsel Marisa Bono said.

The suit has been expected since the Austin City Council voted to sue the state on May 18. Casar, who has been highly critical of the law, announced the suit Thursday.

The city of Austin will file on Friday to intervene in the San Antonio suit as an interested party, Casar said.

“We are filing a legitimate suit in a legitimate venue with our brothers and sisters in San Antonio,” Casar said.

The San Antonio lawsuit challenges nearly every aspect of SB 4, San Antonio City Attorney Andrew Segovia said. The main legal argument in the lawsuit is that the U.S. Constitution prevents states from creating immigration law. It also claims that SB 4 violates the First Amendment, MALDEF President Thomas A. Saenz said.

SB 4 emerged as one of the most controversial laws during the legislative session, and it continues to prompt protests. The law also drew criticism from a wide swath of law enforcement leaders, who said it might lead immigrant communities to become fearful of reporting crimes to authorities.

The sanctuary cities fight also put Travis County in the cross hairs of Gov. Greg Abbott, who cut about $1.5 million in state grant funding to the county after Sheriff Sally Hernandez put in place a policy that ignores many Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests filed on inmates at the Travis County Jail suspected of being in the country illegally.

Abbott vowed to “hammer” Travis County over the issue.

On May 7, he signed SB 4 into law, broadcasting its signing on Facebook. Hours later, state Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Austin in what was seen as a pre-emptive strike to have the law declared constitutional.

The city and Travis County have already questioned Paxton’s lawsuit and asked for it to be dismissed. In court filings, they said that Paxton’s lawsuit should be tossed because it alleges that the city and county violate a law that hasn’t yet been enacted. SB 4 takes effect Sept. 1.



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