A federal appeals court upheld a majority of Texas law that targets sanctuary cities and cracks down on illegal immigration Tuesday afternoon. The appellate court ruled the state penalties violate constitutional free-speech protections only when applied to personal and political speech, not to politicians' or law enforcement agents' official positions.
The judges didn't uphold a provision punishing local officials from "adopting, enforcing or endorsing" policies that specifically prohibit or limit enforcement of immigration laws.
Under the law, known as SB4, the state can also require municipalities and local law enforcement officials to automatically honor federal immigration requests for assistance, particularly requests to detain individuals suspected of being in the country illegally until federal agents can take custody - except during times when an agency lacks the manpower or financial resources to comply. "Risky criminals shouldn't be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes", Paxton said.
The original complaint was filed with The U.S. District Court in San Antonio on May 8 by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); City of El Cenizo, Texas; City of El Cenizo Mayor, Raul L. Reyes; Maverick County Sheriff, Tom Schmerber, and Maverick County Constable Pct. "I am looking forward to an appeal regarding the constitutionality of this misguided, anti-immigrant law".
"The latest ruling underscores why local officials - on county and city levels - must act immediately to end the arrest-to-deportation pipeline that we've tragically come to know firsthand in recent months", Karen Muñoz of Mano Amiga said.
"I am calling on Congress to deliver a budget that protects our homeland and properly funds all of our law enforcement needs".
State Sen. Jose Menendez dismissed the law as "unnecessary and politically motivated" adding it was opposed by "virtually everyone in law enforcement".More news: Students to walk out to honor Parkland victims, call for gun control
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In Texas, the fight over a "Sanctuary cities" bill has raged for more than a year, roiling the Republican-controlled Legislature and once provoking a near-fistfight between lawmakers in the state capitol.
In August 2017, Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio found the legislation was unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny and blocked sections of the law just days before it was to take effect.
"The foregoing discussion demonstrates there is no merit in their [plaintiff's] remaining arguments, and none of the other challenged provisions of SB4 facially violate the Constitution", the court document said on Tuesday. Reacting to Tuesday's ruling, many of them expressed disappointment but also resolve.
"We will continue to follow the law as provided to us by the courts in this matter and we will rise to the challenge of keeping Travis County safe, although our ability to overcome fear and foster cooperation within the immigrant community is a greater challenge now".
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was more effusive in his statement that praised what he termed a "common-sense measure that bans sanctuary cities in Texas".
"We will be monitoring the situation on the ground closely", Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement.