The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that Senate Bill 4, the state’s so-called sanctuary cities ban, can remain the law of the land in Texas for now, stating that the cities that challenged the law will likely lose in their federal court suit.
Plaintiffs in the case include Austin and most of Texas’ other large cities, which sought to overturn the controversial law. It requires cities and counties to enforce detention requests placed on local jail inmates suspected of illegal immigration.
The ruling does overturn one provision that prohibited local elected officials to “endorse” so-called sanctuary city policies.
Attorney General Ken Paxton cheered the ruling.
“I’m pleased the 5th Circuit recognized that Senate Bill 4 is lawful, constitutional and protects the safety of law enforcement officers and all Texans,” Paxton said. “Enforcing immigration law prevents the release of individuals from custody who have been charged with serious crimes. Dangerous criminals shouldn’t be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes.”
This latest ruling is not the end to the legal challenge against the 2017 law. Tuesday’s ruling only struck down a large portion of a temporary injunction put in place by San Antonio federal judge Orlando Garcia on Aug. 30. That court has yet to make a final determination in the case.
Whatever the outcome in San Antonio, many involved in the case agree that the SB 4 lawsuit is destined for the Supreme Court.
State lawmakers rallied behind Governor Greg Abbott to pass the law, which made Texas the strictest state on illegal immigration, after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez put in place a police in which her office would not comply with many so-called detainers immigration agents placed on inmates of the Travis County Jail suspected of being in the country illegally.
Before the law could take effect, the small border town El Cenizo became the first city to challenge the bill. San Antonio and Austin followed suit soon after, with Houston, Dallas and El Paso not far behind. Many other counties cities and activists groups have signed on since then to challenge the law.
However, having it struck from the books will be an uphill climb for its challengers because of the conservative make-up of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Tuesday’s ruling was largely expected by lawyers involved in the case.
Update: This post has been updated throughout.