Texas Sanctuary City Law Survives Fifth Circuit Appeal

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AP File Photo/Eric Gay

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled on behalf of the State of Texas and upheld most of the new anti-sanctuary city law that went into effect September 1, 2017. The three-judge panel unanimously overturned most of the lower court’s ruling that temporarily blocked some provisions of the law.

A group of cities and counties sued to overturn the law before it went into effect. In August, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia a preliminary injunction blocking parts of the law known as SB4, Breitbart News’ Ian Mason reported. About a month later, the Fifth Circuit sided with Texas and overturned Orlando’s injunction, Breitbart Texas reported.

On Tuesday, the three-judge appellate panel unanimously ruled the State can move forward with enforcing most provisions of the law, the Texas Tribune reported. The only part of the law that remains unenforceable at this point is the provision that provides punishment to local officials who are “adopting, enforcing or endorsing” policies that block or limit enforcement of immigration laws. Specifically, the judges said the injunction only applies to the word “endorse.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted his response to the court’s ruling. “Policies upheld by Federal Court of Appeals,” the governor tweeted. “Allegations of discrimination were rejected. Law is in effect.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also responded positively to the announcement by the court.

“I’m pleased the Fifth Circuit recognized that Senate Bill 4 is lawful, constitutional and protects the safety of law enforcement officers and all Texans,” Paxton said in a written statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “Enforcing immigration law prevents the release of individuals from custody who have been charged with serious crimes. Dangerous criminals shouldn’t be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes.”

Paxton cited the court’s decision (attached below) as authored by Judge Edith Jones:

With one exception, SB 4’s provisions do not, on their face, violate the Constitution. For the following reasons, we uphold the statute in its entirety except for the application of the “endorsement” prohibition, Tex. Gov’t Code § 752.053(a)(1), to elected officials.

The state’s attorney general’s legal team presented oral arguments on November 7, Paxton stated.

Governor Abbott made passing a bill to stop sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State during his State of the State Address. “This is the session we will ban sanctuary cities,” to the joint session of the Texas Legislature. Specifically, the governor referred to State Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) who filed SB4, calling for sanctions against sanctuary jurisdictions within the Lone Star State.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez became the poster-child for passing the bill after she quickly reversed her department’s policies of cooperating with federal immigration officials shortly after being sworn in in January 2017.

The governor quickly stripped Travis County of state law enforcement grants. “Travis County currently receives $125 million in state and federal grants that flow through the Office of the Governor,” Governor Abbott’s spokesman John Wittman told Breitbart Texas at the time. “The governor’s office is currently evaluating how much of that $125 million could be taken away under SB4.”

The bill, which provides criminal and civil penalties to public officials who block enforcement of immigration law, passed the legislature in May and went to Abbott’s desk for signature. In an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas immediately after signing the bill into law, Abbott said “law enforcement and other officials implementing sanctuary policies that release criminal aliens with immigration detainers will now be subject to the “stiffest penalties in America.”

On Tuesday evening, Sheriff Hernandez responded to the courts ruling, stating:

Words just can’t express how disappointed I am with this ruling. We are reviewing the Court’s opinion to determine any additional steps that need to be taken. We will continue to follow the law as provided to us by the courts in this matter and we will rise to the challenge of keeping Travis County safe, although our ability to overcome fear and foster cooperation within the immigrant community is a greater challenge now.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reported in March 2017 that Travis County led the nation in the release of criminal aliens in its weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report. Sheriff “Sanctuary Sally” Hernandez’s (a nickname given to her by her opponent during the 2016 sheriff’s race) office 70 of the 206 criminal aliens released by sanctuary jurisdictions, Breitbart Texas reported.

“I was shocked at the number of violent criminals set free by Travis County–and these are just the ones that ICE knows about because they were re-arrested,” Center for Immigration Studies Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan told Breitbart Texas at the time. “There could be many others who have not yet been found by ICE. It’s wrong for Travis County to put the public safety at risk for its narrow political purposes, and wrong to put ICE and other law enforcement officers at risk when they have to take to the streets to catch these people, or when they re-offend.”

In January 2018, the Texas Office of the Attorney General confirmed to Breitbart Texas that it was investigating San Antonio Police Chief William McManus for possible violations of the SB4 law.

The investigation could lead to a criminal prosecution under the SB4 anti-sanctuary city law passed in the 2017 legislative session.

“Our office has received multiple complaints alleging that the San Antonio police chief violated Senate Bill 4, the Texas law prohibiting sanctuary city policies that the attorney general has authority to enforce,” OAG spokesman Mark Rylander said in response to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas. “We have begun our investigation and demanded that the San Antonio Police Department preserve all of its records relating to the incident.”

“Several citizens have filed complaints with the Texas Attorney General’s Office regarding an incident on December 23 involving the release of numerous suspected illegal aliens,” Assistant Texas Attorney General Cleve W. Doty wrote in a letter to San Antonio officials.

“The Texas Attorney General’s Office will investigate these complaints and the procedure in Senate Bill 4 contemplates litigation,” Doty continued. “We demand that you affirmatively preserve all relevant materials.”

The case is City of El Cenizo v. Texas, No. 17-50762 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTXGab, and Facebook.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – City of El Cenizo v. Texas, No. 17-50762

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