Immigrants and advocates won a major victory in Texas last night, when US District Judge Orlando Garcia issued an injunction on the state’s new anti-immigrant law SB 4, just hours before the law was scheduled to take effect.
“There is overwhelming evidence … that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe,” wrote Judge Garcia. “The State may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution.”
The ruling means that, for now, SB4’s key provisions have been blocked:
- Local jails are not required to comply with ICE detainers
- Although police can ask for the immigration status of a detained individual, they won’t be pushed to. The individual does not have to answer, and the police officer cannot arrest the individual simply for being undocumented.
- Provisions that would have punished law enforcement and elected officials for not complying with the law won’t go into effect
As MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said in a statement:
By enjoining the bulk of SB 4, the federal court has preserved the ability of elected officials, sheriffs, and police chiefs to prevent their police forces from becoming untrained and unrestrained enforcers of federal immigration law. While the court did not stop police officers from asking about immigration during a lawful detention, officers would be wise to avoid such inquiries because they could trigger a successful challenge to the detention itself, potentially jeopardizing legitimate work by local police.
Added Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas:
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. But we do not expect Gov. Abbott or Attorney General Ken Paxton to yield easily. This fight isn’t over yet, so we call upon law enforcement, local officials, and supporters who have fought so hard to stop this law not to let up until SB4 is well and truly dead.
Last night’s injunction is the first step in a legal battle that has brought an entire movement — which includes Texas’ major cities, police chiefs and sheriffs, faith leaders, civil rights defenders, and immigration advocates — together against Texas’ state government and its extremist Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. From here, the injunction can either be appealed, or SB 4 will be blocked until the law is either upheld or struck down in court. Abbott and Paxton have already said that they will appeal, leading advocates to question their priorities at a time when Texas is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis and federal emergency. Federal judges recently have been forced to strike down several discriminatory laws passed by Texas Republicans, which gives advocates hope for a permanent end to SB 4.
For now, check out the reaction from an immigration forum in Dallas after the SB 4 announcement was made:
— Univision 62 (@Univision62) August 31, 2017
And view just some of the Twitter reactions to the SB 4 injunction: