Federal Judge Tosses State's "Sanctuary Cities" Suit Against Austin

Concurrent case against Texas remains pending in San Antonio

Mayor Steve Adler, flanked by Council members Delia Garza and Greg Casar, held a press conference at City Hall in June to denounce SB 4.
Mayor Steve Adler, flanked by Council members Delia Garza and Greg Casar, held a press conference at City Hall in June to denounce SB 4. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

It looks like a federal judge has granted Austin attorneys their wish.

In a succinct one-page order dated Aug. 8, U.S. Judge Sam Sparks dismissed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s pre-emptive lawsuit against Austin and Travis County that sought to punish local officials for publicly vocalizing opposition to anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4 and to uphold its supposed constitutionality.

SB 4 targets so-called “sanctuary cities” by allowing police to ask about the citizenship status of anyone they detain and forces local law enforcement to comply with (now voluntary) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests. The upcoming law has already caused damage and spread fear throughout local immigrant communities.

Paxton filed suit against local leaders including Mayor Steve Adler, members of City Council, and Sheriff Sally Hernandez, shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the “Papers Please”-style discriminatory bill into law on May 7. Sparks heard case arguments on June 29 and at the time cautioned that the state didn't have a factual basis for their argument, as the law, set to go into effect Sept. 1, has yet to be enforced. Austin attorneys requested the judge throw out the suit on a few grounds, including the fact the city couldn't have possibly violated the law or caused the state harm because the law had not even been enacted – and Sparks evidently agreed.

But this won‘t be the end fror SB 4: A concurrent federal lawsuit in San Antonio filed by Texas cities, including Austin, against the state over SB 4 has yet to receive a ruling from U.S Judge Orlando Garcia. Stay tuned.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Immigration, Ken Paxton, Sam Sparks

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