Federal Judge Blocks Texas’ Harsh Anti-Sanctuary Law

Protesters takes part in a rally to oppose a new Texas “sanctuary cities” bill that aligns with the president’s tougher stance on illegal immigration in San Antonio June 26, 2017. (Eric Gay/AP)

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked parts of a severe state immigration law that was supposed to take effect Friday and would have outlawed sanctuary cities and penalized local officials who do not cooperate with federal deportation efforts.

The decision Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio delivers a temporary blow to the state’s campaign — backed by the Trump administration — to compel localities to detain immigrants so federal agents can take them into custody.

In a 94-page decision, Garcia wrote that parts of the Texas law are likely to be found unconstitutional. He enjoined the state from punishing local officials, infringing on their right to free speech and forcing them to detain immigrants for federal immigration officials, an act that is currently voluntary. And he wrote that cities and towns had provided “overwhelming” and “ample” evidence that cooperating with immigration officials will “erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe” as well as harm the state economically.

“Indeed, at the end of the day, the Legislature is free to ignore the pleas of city and county officials, along with local police departments, who are in the trenches,” Garcia wrote. “The Court cannot and does not second guess the Legislature. However, the State may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution.”

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) vowed to appeal. “Today’s decision makes Texas’ communities less safe,” Abbott said in a statement.

The law would fine local officials who refused to assist federal agencies in working to deport illegal immigrants up to $25,500 a day. Elected and appointed officials could lose their jobs, and police and sheriffs could go to jail for up to a year on misdemeanor charges.

By Maria Sacchetti for THE WASHINGTON POST
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