U.S. Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Prohibition on Sanctuary Cities

Last Tuesday, a unanimous ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld virtually all of Texas’ ban on sanctuary cities.

Texas Scorecard previously reported on the same court lifting an injunction on major provisions of the law by a district judge in September.

Senate Bill 4, passed last year in the state legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, prohibits sanctuary city policies that bar local law enforcement from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or complying with detainer requests.

Challenging the law were several Texas cities, counties, and advocacy groups. Media spin revved into high gear before and after the law was passed, with falsities including claims that the law would lead to racial profiling – something expressly prohibited in the bill.

The only portion of the lower court injunction affirmed by the Fifth Circuit was a prohibition on endorsing a policy that bars or limits enforcement of immigration laws. The court recognized it as an unconstitutional regulation of political speech that could extend to town halls or press conferences.

Abbott took to Twitter to announce the ruling:

In similar fashion, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the decision, saying in a press release:

“Senate Bill 4 was a top priority for me because I knew it was essential to protect Texas communities and Texas families. It simply requires that local authorities cooperate with federal immigration officials. Hopefully this ruling will make the law crystal clear for those liberal public officials in some Texas cities who have flaunted their opposition to SB 4 and misrepresented its intent. SB 4 will prevent the release of dangerous criminals into our communities and will make us all safer.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also commented on the case:

“I’m pleased the 5th Circuit recognized that Senate Bill 4 is lawful, constitutional and protects the safety of law enforcement officers and all Texans. Enforcing immigration law prevents the release of individuals from custody who have been charged with serious crimes. Dangerous criminals shouldn’t be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes.”

Representing several of the plaintiffs, attorney Lee Gelernt says they’re considering whether to appeal, with a decision likely this week. State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D–El Paso) said in a statement that he’s “looking forward to an appeal.”

Gelernt also says his organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, will be monitoring how the law is carried out for possible challenges.

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Salvador Ayala

Sal is the Budget & Policy Analyst for Empower Texans. He has been a committed proponent of American founding principles since 2007, shortly after receiving his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Before joining Empower Texans, he served as legislative director for Rep. Matt Rinaldi in the Texas house and was a delegate to the 2012 RNC. In his leisure, Sal enjoys live music, digital photography, guitar, bicycling, trivia, and documentary films.

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