U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio, Texas, temporarily blocked a measure that would have made so-called "sanctuary cities" illegal in Texas on Wednesday, despite overwhelming support of the law by Texas lawmakers. The measure was set to take effect Friday.
Senate Bill 4 would have allowed Texas leadership to arrest sheriffs and issue fines to cities and towns that did not fully cooperate with U.S. immigration policies. The law passed easily through the Texas Legislature.
“There is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe,” Garcia said in his decision. “There is also ample evidence that localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, harm the state of Texas.”
Garcia took particular issue with certain parts of the bill, such as the provisions that subject local officials to firing or a year in jail, or potential fines imposed on cities of up to $25,500 per day for not complying with immigration enforcement.
The judge expressed concern that the law would allow officials to illegally detain citizens or lawful immigrants who have not been accused of any crimes.
Texas filings contend the law will remove violent criminals from the streets and “stop local officials from frustrating cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.” Texas lawyers have accused Garcia of imposing his own preferences on the issue over the will of the Texas Legislature.
This move by Garcia is the latest in a long back-and-forth between those who advocate tougher immigration policies in order to protect American jobs and root out undocumented criminals, and those who find such tough policies counterproductive in building effective relationships with immigrant communities.
Lawyers representing the Trump administration have urged Garcia to uphold the ban, according to Bloomberg. The White House has already drafted a plan to take federal funding away from sanctuary cities that hinder the enforcement of federal immigration law, a plan that was blocked by a San Francisco federal judge in July.
The state of Texas is likely to file an appeal to reinstate the law.