Austin asks judge to toss ‘sanctuary cities’ suit


City lawyers claim Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s suit should be dismissed because it was filed too early.

The city is preparing its own lawsuit against the state over Senate Bill 4.

City argues suit should be tossed because state can’t prove a violation of a law that hasn’t yet taken effect.

The city of Austin has asked a federal judge to toss Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit over the Senate Bill 4 ban on so-called sanctuary cities from the courts.

In a motion filed Wednesday, attorneys representing the city said Paxton’s lawsuit violates the Constitution and that it is out of bounds because SB 4 hasn’t yet taken effect.

“The city has been consistent in expressing our concerns with SB 4,” a statement from the city said. “As the state’s lawsuit inappropriately seeks to preemptively punish the city for raising what we believe are legitimate constitutional issues with the law, we have asked the court to dismiss the suit against the city, mayor, city council and city manager.”

Paxton’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Paxton sued Austin and the City Council on May 7 in what was widely interpreted as a pre-emptive strike by his office to have SB 4 declared constitutional. Travis County and Sheriff Sally Hernandez have since been added as defendants in the case.

The city itself is readying its own lawsuit against the state regarding SB 4 after being directed to do so by the council last week. The border city of El Cenizo, Maverick County and El Paso County have sued the state over the law.

The motion says the state cannot show Austin has violated SB 4 because the measure isn’t quite yet a law. It will take effect on Sept. 1.

The suit states the court has no jurisdiction in the matter because Paxton’s suit addresses only hypothetical violations of SB 4.

“Given that the governor announced his signing online via ‘Facebook Live,’ Sunday evening, May 7, 2017, and given that the AG filed suit at midnight that same evening, it is not surprising that the state cannot identify a single objectionable act during the relevant time period,” the suit states.

Meanwhile, Paxton’s office on Wednesday filed a motion seeking to have all lawsuits regarding SB 4 consolidated into his suit against Austin and Travis County. That filing says his office expects to see other cities file suit against the state.

The law would make it a criminal offense for any government official to put a policy in place prohibiting cooperation with federal detention requests placed on jail inmates suspected of being in the country illegally. It also empowers law enforcement officers to inquire about a person’s immigration status during routine police interactions, such as traffic stops.

Critics have argued that so-called immigration detainers are unconstitutional and that by requiring local officials to enforce them, the state has improperly created an immigration law reserved for the federal government.

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