The battle over a controversial new law in Texas that targets sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrant families keeps growing, with the ACLU of Texas filing the latest lawsuit June 5 that challenges the statute.
In the suit, the ACLU of Texas argues the statute, SB 4, violates “fundamental constitutional rights and principles,” and seeks an accelerated ruling on its constitutionality by the federal district court in San Antonio. The national American Civil Liberties Union joined the suit.
Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 4 into law May 7, Texas has emerged as a key battleground in a growing national war over the harsh proposals and rhetoric on immigration that have flowed from the White House since Donald Trump became president in January.
Last month, grassroots organizations joined with local leaders to organize a “Summer of Resistance to SB 4” that also includes legal action. El Paso County and the Texas Organizing Project, a community group, for example, asked a federal court to block SB 4.
“Governor Abbott and his allies in the Legislature enacted the harshest anti-immigration law in the country, ignoring the concerned voices of many Texans who stood in solidarity with our immigrant communities,” Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.
“Not only will SB 4 lead to wholesale racial profiling, it is so vaguely written that local officials and law enforcement agencies are essentially left to guess whether their policies and practices would violate the law.”
Abbott has said SB 4 upholds the law and supports public safety, keeping dangerous criminals in jail. The measure reflects a push nationally by Republicans to engage local law enforcement in cracking down on undocumented immigrants who are also criminals.
In recent years, Texas officials also have taken steps to enforce federal immigration laws on their own and enact policies that affect the lives of immigrants in the Lone Star State.In 2015, Abbott approved $800 million of state money for border protection, which usually falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
Texas state officials also tried to make it more difficult for parents to get birth certificates for their U.S.-born children, though immigrants and attorneys fought the case and won. Earlier this year, state lawmakers considered ending work-study-aid for immigrant students at public universities.
Lawmakers also approved the designation of private immigration detention facilities in the state as child care providers, grassroots advocates said. Immigrant rights organizations contend that detaining immigrant women and youth can cause trauma.
SB 4, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, allows police officers, sheriff deputies and Texas state troopers to ask about a person’s immigration status – whether they are here legally – during a routine stop.
It also permits putting sheriffs and police chiefs in jail if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents. It’s been called the anti-sanctuary law because it targets cities and towns that, in general, do not cooperate with agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The battle has spread far beyond the Lone Star state. In Illinois, state legislators sent a bill known as the TRUST Act to Gov. Bruce Rauner late last month. The legislation would bar local law enforcement from immigration enforcement, unless there is a warrant and offer other protections to residents, according to a summary from the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois.
In addition, federal agents would not be allowed to enter schools and health facilities that receive state support without a warrant.
In California, lawmakers are considering designating the entire state a sanctuary for immigrants. Some also want to limit how much information private businesses and landlords can share with federal immigration agents about employees and tenants.
Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice News. This report includes information from The Associated Press.
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