Back in May Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a measure to punish so-called "sanctuary cities," despite pleas from some of the police departments of cities like Austin to halt the bill they said would hinder their ability to fight crime. You know, because enforcing laws tends to 'hinder' the crime-fighting process.
Per Reuters, the Republican-dominated legislature passed the bill on a party-line vote. Among other things, the bill was designed to punish local authorities who refused to abide by requests to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Police officials found to be in violation of the law could face removal from office, fines and up to a year in prison if convicted.
The measure also allowed police to ask people about their immigration status during a lawful detention, even for minor infractions like jaywalking.
But, just two days before the bill was set to take effect, Federal Judge Orlando Garcia, a Bill Clinton appointee, has temporarily blocked Abbott's sanctuary city bill on the grounds that it's 'unconstitutional.' Per the Wall Street Journal:
The League of United Latin American Citizens challenged the Texas law in May on behalf of the city of El Cenizo, a small and largely Hispanic border town. Several other jurisdictions, including the state’s four largest cities—San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas—quickly joined the case.
In his ruling, Judge Garcia, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, said the state legislature has broad authority to enact laws regardless of what the majority of the public thinks, but “may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution.”
The ruling temporarily blocks provisions of the law that allow for disciplinary action against law-enforcement officials who don’t comply with federal requests to detain illegal immigrants.
It also halts a provision that would prevent municipalities or police agencies from crafting policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents and endorsing such policies.
Of course, some law enforcement officials, like "Sanctuary Sally" Hernandez of Travis County (Austin), fought Abbott's legislation from the start and applauded Garcia's decision saying that "local communities are safer and stronger when justice and security are a reality, not for some, but for all."
“The Texas legislature has a reliable history of ignoring the Constitution when writing law, and we’re thankful the court blocked SB4 before it could do irreparable damage to our communities,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, a Democrat who ordered her department to stop detaining illegal immigrants for federal immigration authorities, said Wednesday that “local communities are safer and stronger when justice and security are a reality, not for some, but for all.”
Not surprisingly, Governor Abbott had a slightly different opinion...
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, said Wednesday that Judge Garcia’s ruling “makes Texas less safe.”
“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,” he said.
We apparently missed the part in our Civics 101 class where we discussed police departments and their ability to unilaterally pick and choose which laws they're going to enforce...hopefully someone can explain how that works?