With a quick stroke of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s pen, the Lone Star State has quickly become the central focus in the nationwide debate over so-called “sanctuary cities.”
In a Facebook Live post Sunday night, Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law. It allows police to ask during regular stops about someone’s immigration status and threatens local law enforcement officials with jail time for refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Supporters say the bill is a necessary step toward stemming the flow of people entering the U.S. illegally, especially those with violent criminal pasts. Opponents have compared it to Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, known as the ‘Show Me Your Papers’ law, which is no longer in effect. They say it will lead to racial profiling and incite fear in immigrant communities, making them less willing to work with police.
On Monday, the state sued its capital, the city of Austin’s mayor, all of its city council members, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). The lawsuit is a preemptive move by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to get out ahead of civil rights groups like MALDEF and the ACLU, who have said they plan to challenge SB 4 in court before it takes effect on September 1. The complaint asks the courts to rule that SB 4 doesn’t infringe on the 4th Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure or the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies
Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)