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Here’s the latest in what’s going on with SB 4 and Texas immigration news.
Opponents of Texas’ SB 4 anti-immigrant law were given a good sign this week when Judge Orlando Garcia — the same federal judge who will hear the San Antonio lawsuit against SB 4 — ruled in a separate case against ICE detainers.
Judge Garcia found that the Bexar County Sheriff violated the constitutional rights of an undocumented man when he was unnecessarily held in jail for two months on an immigration detainer after his criminal charges were dismissed. The judge ruled that the sheriff’s office did not have probable cause to keep holding the man, since immigration violations are civil charges that don’t incur criminal penalties (such as jail time). The ruling is consistent with those from a number of district courts.
Judge Garcia’s ruling could have a number of implications. Currently, Bexar County regularly honors ICE detainers, and its sheriff has said that the county does so in order to avoid losing state law enforcement grants. Other counties in the state with similar practices could face similar lawsuits, and Texas’ practice of withholding grants based on detainer compliance could come under fire. The ruling may also be a window into how Judge Garcia will rule on SB 4, which mandates compliance with ICE detainers for all Texas counties.
As the plaintiff’s immigration attorney Lance Curtright said:
I think every county in the state that has a jail and is honoring ICE detainers should read this case very closely, because they’re on notice of the legality of (honoring detainers) and they could be sued and have to pay damages for it.
Dallas is joining onto the legal fight again SB 4. After dozens of advocates earlier this week rallied in favor of City Council supporting litigation against SB 4, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings announced the City Council has asked the city attorney to join the existing lawsuit against SB 4 filed by San Antonio and Austin (the one that will be heard by Judge Orlando Garcia, mentioned above). “The bill is unconstitutional and would infringe upon the city’s ability to protect public safety,” Rawlings posted on his Facebook page this week.
Houston may soon be joining the fight as well. Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted that he would ask the City Council to “consider and vote to join the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of SB 4.” Turner was criticized this week when he tweeted that “we at City Hall can’t repeal #SB4 — only #TXLege/Austin can….voice your disagreement to those that can do something.” The Houston Chronicle ran a front page story on how Turner “remains on the sidelines” while advocates at the Texas Organizing Project wrote that:
The Mayor is right that we need to be in Austin during special session protesting SB4. We were there during the regular session and will return…but that is not what the community has asked of him…
We need him to show that he will stand up to Gov. Greg Abbott when he signs laws that effectively encourage and legalize racial profiling.
Mayor Turner should join Texans fighting against discrimination and file suit to stop SB4. And when we do go to Austin, we’ll do so confident that back home, our mayor has our back.
The League of United Latin American Citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas have also officially filed their lawsuit, asking implementation of SB 4 to be blocked until a ruling on it can be handed down, as it is “unconstitutionally vague” and violates multiple constitutional amendments. A hearing has been set for June 26th. Working on the case will be the ACLU’s Lee Gelernt and four other attorneys who recently made headlines for successfully defeating Donald Trump’s first travel ban. As Gelernt said:
SB 4 and the travel ban cases raise different technical legal issues, but both arise in, and are part of, an unfortunate anti-immigrant climate. Both laws rest on incorrect and pernicious stereotypes. [He added that the ACLU is devoting national resources to fighting the state law] because of the national importance, given that states around the country are talking about similar laws.
When all of these lawsuits are considered, almost a quarter of all Texans live in a city/jurisdiction that is suing the state over SB 4. To sum up the parties involved in the three major lawsuits against Texas:
Finally, a special legislative session has also been called in Texas, where legislators will meet starting July 18 for a maximum of 30 days. It’s unclear whether the legislature will be considering immigration, but without the special session, the legislature wouldn’t have reconvened again until 2019.
Sherri Greenberg, a professor at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, estimates that SB 4 could cost the Texas economy more than $3.7 billion over the next decade.
In response to SB 4, the American Immigration Lawyers Association has moved its annual conference in 2018 out of Texas, saying that the law’s “dangerous, destructive and counterproductive proposals” go against the group’s mission and noting that a number of their members might be unwilling to bring themselves or their family members to Texas.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), meanwhile, have asked the annual music/film/tech festival SXSW to move out of Texas.
In Texas State Rep. Matt Rinaldi’s (R) district, advocates have released a campaign video highlighting Rinaldi’s recent comments about calling ICE on a gallery of Latino protesters. The video was produced by the Workers Defense Action Fund and the Texas Organizing Project, and says that Rinaldi harassed “youth, families and even Texans who’ve been here for generations”. It ends with a call to “join the fight. For our Texas. For our rights.” Rinaldi is up for reelection in November 2018. Protesters have also called upon Rinaldi’s law firm to fire him, and an attorney with the El Paso lawsuit has already said that he plans to use Rinaldi’s call to ICE to show SB 4’s discriminatory intent in court.