Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the City of San Antonio and Police Chief William McManus over violations of SB4, the sanctuary city law. SB4 was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in May 2017 and is sometimes referred to as the “Show Me Your Papers” law. It is a ban on sanctuary cities in Texas.

The lawsuit asks the district court to force McManus and the city to comply with SB4, prohibit the department from “thwarting” federal immigration enforcement and to assess civil penalties against the chief, the police department and the city.

Paxton is looking to send a message that the law must be adhered to by local authorities. Back on December 23, 2017, when police found 12 illegal aliens being transported in an 18-wheel truck, detectives interviewed them and then released them rather than turn them over to Homeland Security. SB4 made refusing to work with federal authorities on immigration matters a Class A misdemeanor. (Houston Chronicle)

“After the initial stop, in a departure from customary practice, Chief McManus asserted jurisdiction over the investigation under the state smuggling statute, advised officers at the scene that SAPD would be handling the case locally, and stated that HSI agents were not to be involved in the case,” the lawsuit reads.

The “state smuggling statute” cited in the suit appears to refer to Texas’ state smuggling of persons law, which was created in 2011. Julian Calderas, the former deputy field office director in San Antonio for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, previously told the Express-News that local police rarely use the charge, instead turning over the investigation to Homeland Security Investigations, the criminal investigative branch of ICE.

The lawsuit also alleges McManus personally called an immigration attorney to the crime scene, took the suspected undocumented immigrants to Public Safety Headquarters and then released them “without so much as a routine background check.”

Chief McManus maintained at the time that it was a situational decision and not necessarily how other stops will be handled. It should be noted that the department received a $500,000 grant to train officers on how to investigate and identify human smuggling and trafficking.

This decision by McManus – to release the illegal aliens – was disputed by the president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association Michael Helle. Helle said the chief’s decision violated the San Antonio Police Department policies as well as the state law. The driver of the truck was arrested but later released in April 2018. No charges were filed and the case remains open, though state law is that anyone arrested and held for a felony must be indicted by a grand jury within 90 days or be released.

The San Antonio Express-News reported at the time that the illegal aliens were interviewed but no background checks were run or fingerprints were taken so how could a determination be made? McManus interrupted the scene when he showed up and the detectives were interrupted from calling in Homeland Security.

This lawsuit launched in Texas is timely, given that just Friday a federal judge in New York ruled that President Trump’s ban on federal money allocation to sanctuary cities is unconstitutional. Not only that but the judge also ruled that the law passed by Congress on information-sharing is unconstitutional. He cited the separation of power as a check on tyranny. Ok, then.

But beyond that, the judge ruled Section 1373 of immigration law, which requires at least some level of information-sharing, to be a violation of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment, which prohibits federal interference with state powers.

We’ll have to wait and see how this lawsuit in Texas goes but at least it is a start. Especially with the continued confusion and mess on the border now with organized groups of migrants hoping to storm the border, it seems something as basic as working with Homeland Security isn’t too much ot ask of local authorities. Training is available and a case involving twelve men hauled around in the back of an 18-wheeler is obviously nefarious. Holding the driver responsible was right but working with the federal officials in dealing with the humans being trafficked would have completed local law enforcement’s actions on the scene.