Paxton appeals order barring ‘sanctuary cities’ ban


Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an appeal Thursday to a ruling that blocked Senate Bill 4.

The appeal sets up a legal fight that might be destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Supporters cheered the ruling but agreed it would be a long fight.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a notice of appeal Thursday to a federal court order that largely barred the controversial “sanctuary cities” ban from taking effect Friday.

That filing came in rapid response to the injunction issued Wednesday evening by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who questioned the constitutionality of Senate Bill 4 and expressed concern over the law’s potential to make local authorities’ jobs more difficult by straining their relationships with their communities.

Paxton on Thursday also asked Garcia to set aside the injunction while the state’s appeal is pending with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is regarded as one of the country’s most conservative appellate courts. Garcia denied that motion.

Additionally, Paxton appealed an order from early August from an Austin federal court that dismissed his lawsuit seeking to have the bill pre-emptively declared constitutional.

THE BACK STORY: Austin to sue state over SB 4 ban on ‘sanctuary cities’

SB 4 requires local law enforcement officials to comply with all requests from federal immigration authorities to hold local jail inmates suspected of living in the country illegally, and it creates civil and criminal penalties for elected officials enacting policies against SB 4.

Critics have argued the law will encourage racial profiling, fray relations between police and immigrant communities, and break up immigrant families. Proponents say the law will reduce crime and remove criminals from the streets.

Garcia’s injunction blocking SB 4 from going into effect Friday “makes Texas’ communities less safe,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities.”

Even if the injunction is overturned, SB 4 appears destined for a lengthy legal battle.

“Everything tells me this is headed to the Supreme Court,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University.

One of the most controversial aspects of the law empowers local law enforcement officers to investigate a person’s immigration status during routine police encounters, such as traffic stops. That provision of the law wasn’t barred by Garcia’s order, so it will go into effect Friday.

Officials at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the advocacy group representing San Antonio, Bexar County and El Paso in the suit against SB 4, downplayed the impact of that aspect of SB 4. In a briefing with reporters Thursday morning, they noted that police leaders can now provide strong guidance on when and where officers should question a person’s immigration status.

Still, MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas Saenz said it is up to individual officers to weigh whether they should question a person’s immigration status.

“Such questioning could drive a wedge between important communities and the police that serve them,” Saenz said. “They could prevent the police from engaging in the important investigative work they already have to do in respect to crime in the state of Texas and could call into question the legitimacy to any detention that is followed by extended questioning.”

The news of the temporary halt gave hope to Austin-area advocacy groups who fought the passage of SB 4.

“This injunction is a great victory for all Texans against a hateful bill put forward and signed by Greg Abbott,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership. “We applaud our local officials for challenging this law, and call on all our local officials to renew resistance to anti-immigrant hate.”

Latino civic engagement organization Jolt, Youth Rise Texas and other student groups are moving forward with plans for a Youth Rally Against Hate at noon Friday. High school and college students plan to walk out of school and join the event, which will feature art and music, at the Capitol.

On Saturday, various immigrant rights and civil rights groups will celebrate the temporary injunction with a Unity Concert and March from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Capitol.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

JUST IN: Local comedian stabbed 5 times in Southeast Austin attack
JUST IN: Local comedian stabbed 5 times in Southeast Austin attack

An Austin comedian is recovering after being stabbed five times during an attack in Southeast Austin last week. The stabbing happened around 11:46 a.m. on April 20 in the 4400 block of East Ben White Boulevard near Burleson Road. Seth Murray, 32, also known as Seth Goodtime, was walking from his girlfriend’s house on Matador Street to grab a...
Texas 130 set to expand as tollway freeze thaws
Texas 130 set to expand as tollway freeze thaws

The Texas Department of Transportation freeze on toll projects thawed somewhat Thursday, when the board governing the agency approved a $36.7 million contract to add lanes to Texas 130 east of Austin. The project to add a third lane to each side of the tollway between Texas 45 North and U.S. 290 was approved by the Texas Transportation Commission as...
Austin firefighters praise puppy that took on coral snake near children
Austin firefighters praise puppy that took on coral snake near children

Austin firefighters on Thursday praised a puppy that took on a coral snake that was just inches from a patio where two young children were playing. The puppy, a shih-poo named Panda, spotted the brightly colored serpent as a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old were playing on an apartment patio on the ground level of a building. “My awesome hero pet...
Vehicle crashes into Oracle campus wall, EMS says
Vehicle crashes into Oracle campus wall, EMS says

SOUTHEAST AUSTIN EMS: Vehicle crashes into Oracle campus wall A vehicle crashed into a wall at the Oracle campus in Southeast Austin on Thursday afternoon, Austin-Travis County EMS said. Medics responded at 1:41 p.m. to a vehicle-building crash in the 2300 block of South Lakeshore Boulevard near East Riverside Drive. Medics evaluated a person after...
Longer live music hours on Red River will remain in place
Longer live music hours on Red River will remain in place

Longer live music hours on Red River Street will stay for good, after a yearlong test that drew widespread praise and support. Austin City Council members agreed unanimously Thursday to permanently allow venues in the Red River Cultural District, between Sixth and 12th streets, to play amplified music until midnight on Thursdays and 1 a.m. on weekends...
More Stories