You’d think that pretty much all government work in Texas would have ground to a halt while they deal with Harvey, but the courts in the rest of the state are still conducting business as usual. One of those tasks was to consider a challenge to the new Texas law which would have done away with sanctuary city policies all across the Lone Star State. The law was set to take effect shortly, but a judge has now thrown cold water on the effort, blocking key portions of the bill from taking effect. (Washington Examiner)
A federal judge blocked parts of Texas’s strict new immigration crackdown law late Wednesday, ruling that the state cannot attempt to punish sanctuary cities for refusing to turn illegal immigrants over to federal authorities for deportation.
Acting less than 30 hours before the law was to take effect, U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia said it’s up to the federal government, not the state, to decide what sorts of cooperation localities must provide in the context of immigration.
But the judge left in place the part of the law that allows police to determine the legal status of those they encounter during their duties. Judge Garcia said as long as the checks don’t prolong the encounter, they are presumed to be constitutional.
While not a total collapse, the portions of the law which were blocked had the real teeth in this legislation. Texas was set to require both local police forces and public colleges to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, with police chiefs and sheriffs who refused facing possible prosecution. The judge in the case is claiming that such functions are the prerogative of the federal government and not the states.
Governor Abbot is appealing the ruling immediately and feels that there’s Supreme Court precedent on his side, but I’m not entirely sure. The fundamental basis of this argument from the beginning has been that it’s the federal government which has the power to make and enforce immigration law so state and municipal governments can’t stand in the way of that. Under that theory, one might assume that Texas actually is usurping federal authority by stepping into the enforcement issue even if their efforts serve to assist federal authorities rather than hindering them. (That’s a point that the Attorney General made, but without citing any precedent for it.)
This law was well intentioned and I suppose it’s possible that it could be reinstated on appeal, but it might also have been imperfectly crafted. Once the appeals are finished, Texas could always try again with a new bill that satisfies the complaints of the courts but that will likely be years down the road from here.