Federal Appeals Court Upholds Texas Law Banning 'Sanctuary Cities'

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late Tuesday that with one minor exception, the law passed in the 2017 Texas Legislature banning so called 'Sanctuary Cities' is legal and can be enforced, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The law is known by its Legislative number, S.B. 4.A three judge panel says the state can allow police officers to inquire about the immigration status of a person who is 'detained' by law enforcement, even for a traffic violation. 

It is also legal for the state to require local governments to cooperate with immigration officials.

A portion of the law allows local officials, including sheriffs, police chiefs, and mayors, to be fined and even removed from office if they 'adopt, enforce, or endorse' any support for sanctuary policies.  The Appeals Court threw out the word 'endorse,' saying it violates the free speech rights of the elected officials, but allowed the rest of the law to stand.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was a major supporter of the law, praised the ruling.

“Senate Bill 4 was a top priority for me because I knew it was essential to protect Texas communities and Texas families. It simply requires that local authorities cooperate with federal immigration officials," Patrick said in a statement.  "Hopefully this ruling will make the law crystal clear for those liberal public officials in some Texas cities who have flaunted their opposition to SB 4 and misrepresented its intent. SB 4 will prevent the release of dangerous criminals into our communities and will make us all safer.”

The law was challenged in court almost immediately after Gov. Abbott signed it into law last September by a coalition of immigrant rights groups and local governments, including the City of San Antonio.

“While I’m deeply disappointed by the Fifth Circuit’s decision, San Antonio will remain a welcoming and compassionate city as we continue to honor the law, including individual civil rights,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. 

The City said in a statement it has no policies in place which run contrary to S.B. 4.

"The City of San Antonio continues to be in compliance with the applicable SB4 restrictions. The City complies with lawful detainer requests, and has no policy that prohibits a peace officer from the following:

a)    inquiring into the immigration status of a person, or

b)    cooperating with federal immigration officials, or

c)    permitting a federal immigration officer to enter and conduct enforcement activities at its detention facility. 

Opponents of S.B. 4, including the City of San Antonio, say they are considering their next step, including appealing the ruling to the entire Appeals Court.

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