Federal Judge Blocks Key Parts of Texas’ SB4 ‘Show Me Your Papers’ Law

The possibility that all of Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) would begin to get implemented this Friday September 1 is pretty much no longer possible, as a federal judge blocked key provisions of the controversial law on Wednesday—resulting in a major victory for immigrant rights groups.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of the Western District of Texas agreed with most of the lawsuit filed by the City of El Cenizo, the City’s Mayor, Raul Reyes, Maverick County and elected officials Sheriff Tom Schmerber and Constable Mario Hernandez and Texas LULAC.

“There is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement,” Garcia wrote in his 94-page decision, “that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe. There is also ample evidence that localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, harm the state of Texas.”

“Today’s verdict is not just a victory for El Cenizo and the state of Texas; it’s a win for the country” LULAC National President Roger C. Rocha, Jr. said in a statement. The ruling protects the civil liberties of immigrant communities across the U.S. that live in fear of discrimination due to the color of their skin, accent, and native country. We prevailed in blocking state lawmakers from rolling back decades of progress our nation has made on civil rights. Defeat was never an option. The precedent set today serves as a clear and direct message to other states that might consider passing anti-immigrant laws: Discrimination and attacks on our country’s most vulnerable people will not be tolerated and will be met with relentless resistance.”

“Local Texas law enforcement officials will no longer be tasked with doing the job of a federal agency,” Rocha added. “They can focus their time and resources maintaining public safety and building on the trust they have established with the communities they serve. Immigrants can resume reporting crimes without the fear of deportation, a community policing practice that has historically contributed to low crime rates.”

“We won over 90 percent of it,” LULAC lawyer Luis Vera told MySanAntonio.com. “The state cannot mandate to the cities or police officers or sheriff’s offices how they run their police departments.”

Jolt, a Texas-based group that was actively protesting against SB 4, issued this statement:

Today, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia sided with Texas families and against legislation predicated on hate and discrimination by striking down SB4, one of the most extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Latino pieces of legislation in the country. SB4 sought to force local law enforcement to carry out President Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda, opened the door to the racial profiling of Latinos who make up 40 percent of our state’s population, and allow the removal of democratically elected officials from office just for speaking out against the law.

The decision comes in the wake of unprecedented mobilizations by neo-nazis and white supremacists, in Charlottesville, VA. on August 12. While, many of us wish that such displays of bigotry and hatred, were an anomaly, the reality is that across the country white supremacists and their sympathizers, from the white house to the Texas Capitol, are determined to take our nation backwards and roll back the gains of the civil rights movement.

Texas lawmakers like Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have worked tirelessly to suppress the Latino and African American vote, to defund schools that serve children of color, and to pass laws that would lead to the deportation of immigrants and the policing of communities of color. They have have made it clear that they intend to target and discriminate against people of color.

In Charlottesville, troubled young men marched chanting “you will not replace us,” this chant seems to be shared by some of our state’s leadership. Texas Republican legislators who supported SB4 see Latino and immigrant communities as a threat. They fear us because they know that we represent the future of this state. When Republican legislators argued that SB4 was necessary they did so by arguing that our community were outsiders, that we were a threat to Texas. However, the irony is that Republican that supported SB4 are the outliers. Most Americans support giving the undocumented legal status. We aren’t outsiders; we are America.

While we celebrate today’s victory, we must remember that our work does not end here. The court’s decision will not stop Governor Greg Abbott from appealing this decision, it will not stop similar legislation from being enacted in the future, and it will not keep our community safe from other attacks. We are the only ones who can defend our community, demand accountability for these hateful policies, and remove those who seek to turn back the clock on civil rights from office. It’s time for us to come together as Texans to organize and mobilize to defend our freedoms, our democracy and our state.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued this statement:

Today’s decision makes Texas’ communities less safe. Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities.”

U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side. This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.

And this is what Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement:

Senate Bill 4 was passed by the Texas Legislature to set a statewide policy of cooperation with federal immigration authorities enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, which had also sued Texas about SB 4 in a different lawsuit, also reacted to Garcia’s ruling:

“By enjoining the bulk of SB 4, the federal court has preserved the ability of elected officials, sheriffs, and police chiefs to prevent their police forces from becoming untrained and unrestrained enforcers of federal immigration law,” MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said in a statement. “While the court did not stop police officers from asking about immigration during a lawful detention, officers would be wise to avoid such inquiries because they could trigger a successful challenge to the detention itself, potentially jeopardizing legitimate work by local police.”

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