Opponents of Texas’ sanctuary-cities ban moved Monday to block the law from taking effect until a court issues a final judgment on its constitutionality.
The move in a San Antonio federal district court came in an early-morning filing by attorneys from the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. Attorneys said they asked for the move “because the law is patently unconstitutional on numerous grounds and the balance of harms strongly militates in favor of preserving the status quo.”
In their motion, attorneys said the law, previously known as Senate Bill 4, should be blocked because it pre-empts federal immigration law, is “unconstitutionally vague” and violates the First, Fourth and 10th Amendments.
The law will ban cities, counties and universities from prohibiting their local law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status and enforcing immigration law. It will create a criminal charge for police chiefs, county sheriffs and constables who violate the ban and will charge local jurisdictions up to $25,000 for each day they are in violation. Elected or appointed officials who violate the ban could be removed from office.
The law will also allow police officers to ask about a person’s immigration status during any legal detention, which could include a routine traffic stop. Opponents have likened the law to Arizona’s “papers, please” legislation, parts of which were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Supporters of the law say it is meant to keep unauthorized immigrant criminals off the street and to ensure that local law enforcement agencies comply with federal immigration authorities. If they do not, supporters argue, immigrants arrested on charges of minor crimes could go on to commit more serious ones. The law is scheduled to go into effect in September.
The plaintiffs’ request to block the law will depend on whether the court determines they are likely to succeed in the lawsuit. The court will also take into consideration whether allowing the law to go into effect would cause “irreparable harm” to the plaintiffs or if blocking the law would cause more harm to the state. Its final consideration will be whether blocking the law would harm the public interest.
The legal maneuver is part of a recent tit-for-tat between opponents of the sanctuary-cities ban and state leaders working to defend it. The state struck first in May, filing suit against Austin city officials a day after the law was signed in what was largely seen as a pre-emptive move to prevent legal challenges against the ban from piling up.
A day later, the small town of El Cenizo and Maverick County became the first jurisdictions to sue the state over the newly signed law. El Paso County filed its suit a few weeks later and was followed by the cities of San Antonio and Austin.
Last week, the state moved to consolidate several of the legal challenges to the ban by combining them all into the same lawsuit and moving them away from a federal district court in San Antonio, which is seen as a more favorable venue to opponents of the law, and toward Austin, where the state’s original suit was filed.
Attorneys for El Cenizo and Maverick County officials said in their motion to block the law that the court should block it to “engage in a deliberate assessment of the law’s legality.”
“Doing so will prevent irreparable harm to plaintiffs and their communities,” they wrote. “In contrast, the state will suffer no harm from a preliminary injunction; no legal void would be left.”