Immigration Law

5th Circuit upholds Texas ban on sanctuary city policies, with an exception

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sanctuary city protest

Demonstrators protesting SB 4, the anti-sanctuary cities immigration law, in Austin, Texas, in 2017. Vic Hinterlang /

A federal appeals court Tuesday allowed Texas to enforce a law that barred local governments from adopting sanctuary policies, except for a provision that raised First Amendment concerns.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, report Politico, the Texas Tribune and the Austin American Statesman. How Appealing links to additional coverage; an ACLU press release is here.

The court said that the plaintiffs would likely mostly lose in their challenge to the state law known as SB 4. The court agreed with the plaintiffs, however, that a provision barring elected officials from “endorsing” sanctuary cities policies is probably unconstitutional. That provision “proscribes core political speech,” Judge Edith Jones wrote for the panel.

SB4 forbids local entities from limiting the enforcement of federal immigration law. The law goes on to list examples. Local governments can’t limit inquiries about the immigration status of anyone who is lawfully detained, can’t bar the sharing of immigration status with federal agencies, and can’t bar cooperation with federal immigration officers.

The law also requires local law enforcement agencies to comply with detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, unless there is proof that the person is a citizen or lawfully in the country.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the ruling “an important step in restoring legality to our immigration system.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented some of the plaintiffs, said it is exploring its legal options.

“The court made clear that we remain free to challenge the manner in which the law is implemented, so we will be monitoring the situation on the ground closely,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

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