SB 4 on Thin ICE

A ruling in San Antonio spells trouble for state law

SB 4 on Thin ICE
by Jana Birchum

The same federal judge slated to preside over the challenge to anti-immigrant law Senate Bill 4 later this month recently dealt a potentially crucial blow to the state's case for the problematic legislation. Last week, U.S. Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the Bexar County Sheriff's Office acted unconstitutionally when it honored a detainer request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a Mexican citizen who had been ordered to be released.

Julio Trujillo Santoyo was held in jail for more than two months even after his misdemeanor assault charges were dropped; Garcia found that violated his Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Jails can't hold someone because they are undocumented; they need a warrant or probable cause. The County's "routine detention of such individuals made it inevitable that it would engage in warrantless detention of individuals who were not suspected of any criminal offense," wrote Garcia.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office said the judge's ruling "affords apparent vindication" for Sheriff Sally Hernandez's ICE policies. Hernandez, who in January declared she would only comply with detainers for those charged with serious crimes, believes ICE should offer warrants or court orders to jails before holding individuals.

The ruling lends more ammo to Texas cities fighting against SB 4 in court since among other provisions, the so-called "sanctuary cities" law would punish local governments that fail to follow ICE detainer requests. Austin joined San Antonio's suit against the law earlier this month; a preliminary hearing is set for June 26 in Garcia's San Antonio-based court.

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Senate Bill 4, 85th Lege, Orlando Garcia, Sally Hernandez

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