Court Blocks Senate Bill 4

Anti-immigrant law won't go into effect this Friday, Sept. 1

Anti-SB 4 demonstrators at a sit-in at Gov. Abbott's office on May 1
Anti-SB 4 demonstrators at a sit-in at Gov. Abbott's office on May 1 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

In a heavily anticipated ruling, U.S. Judge Orlando Garcia has blocked major portions of Senate Bill 4, the new "papers, please"-style state law that has already instilled fear and dread in immigrant communities.

Meant to punish so-called “sanctuary cities” the draconian law won’t be enforced, at least for now.

SB 4, set to take effect this Friday, would have forced local police departments to follow now voluntary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests and allow officers to inquire about the citizenship status of anyone they detain, not just arrest. It would also threaten to remove local officials that endorse any policy to the contrary and charge them with jail time. The cities of El Cenizo, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and Maverick and El Paso counties filed suit against the state of Texas earlier this summer.

Bracing for the law, passed by the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature during the regular session despite opposition from hundreds, immigrant communities in Austin and elsewhere have already experienced the dangerous effects of the new rules, including failing to report crime and domestic abuse due to fear of deportation.

In his 94-page ruling, Garcia concludes that there is “overwhelming evidence” by local officials, including law enforcement that SB 4 will “erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe.” Among his findings, Garcia wrote that SB 4 indeed violates due process and creates a “real danger of arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement,” and violates the First Amendment.

In a statement issued shortly after the ruling, Mayor Steve Adler said: “This ruling is good for Austin because SB 4 if ever implemented would make Austin less safe. This week’s crisis with Hurricane Harvey is just the most recent example why people need to feel safe approaching our local police and support groups, no matter what. If people in Austin do not feel safe asking for help, they become more vulnerable to crime, not just natural disasters.”

The ruling – albeit temporary, as a future hearing is expected – serves as a slap to zealous anti-immigrant state officials and a resounding victory for marginalized immigrant communities besieged by discriminatory laws.

To read the full ruling, click here. Check back with the Chronicle's Daily News for more later this week.

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Immigration, Orlando Garcia, Senate Bill 4

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