U.S. Fifth Circuit Upholds Key Provisions of Sanctuary Cities Ban

A last-minute injunction against a controversial piece of legislation aimed at curtailing sanctuary city policies was partially lifted on Monday by a panel of judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

During the recent regular session, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 4 requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Just days prior to its effective date, a U.S. District Court in San Antonio granted an injunction, stopping key provisions of the law.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia blocked five key provisions of SB 4, deeming them unconstitutional. The state responded by appealing to the Fifth Circuit, seeking a temporary stay of the injunction until the case is fully argued in November.

Here is a summary of the most recent holding:

  • Section 752.053(b)(3) provides that local entities “may not prohibit or materially limit” authorized persons from “assisting or cooperating with a federal immigration officer as reasonable or necessary, including providing enforcement assistance.” The enforcement part of that section was in question but upheld (and the injunction stayed) with the caveat that the term “materially limits” remain enjoined until further clarification.
  • Similarly, Section 752.052(a)(1) prohibits local entities or campus police from adopting, enforcing, or endorsing a policy that prevents or materially limits immigration enforcement. As above, the court ruled that only the “endorse” part of this section was subject of the injunction for lack of clarity, and thus kept it in place.
  • Two parts of the injunction related to 752.052(a)(1) and (a)(2) were kept in place with regards to the same “materially limits” phrasing discussed above. Those sections, minus that language, will go into effect.
  • Lastly, the district court enjoined Article 2.251(a)(1) requiring law enforcement agencies to comply with, honor, and fulfill any immigration detainer request issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The appellate panel lifted the injunction on this provision, noting that detainees maintain the right to present proof of lawful immigration status.

Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, released a comment yesterday, stating:

“We are pleased today’s 5th Circuit ruling will allow Texas to strengthen public safety by implementing the key components of Senate Bill 4. Enforcing immigration law helps prevent dangerous criminals from being released into Texas communities. I am confident Senate Bill 4 will be found constitutional and ultimately upheld.”

In her own news release, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez responded. “Our policy has been updated to comply with the findings of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” she said. Hernandez’s previous sanctuary policies had come under fire in recent months for leading to the release of dangerous criminal illegals back onto Austin streets.

Capitalizing on the divisive climate of the current news cycle, Austin City Council member Greg Casar urged local law enforcement to take measures “to defy Abbott’s racist coercion.”

Worth noting is that in deciding a motion to stay pending appeal, courts consider a multitude of factors, among them “whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits,” indicating a favorable position for the state as the case moves forward.

The full appeal of the injunction now moves to November 6th in the Fifth Circuit, while the principal lawsuit that challenges the law awaits a trial date in the San Antonio District Court.

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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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