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One Hearing On Texas’ Sanctuary Cities Law Down, One To Go

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declined to make a decision Monday, and he didn’t indicate when a decision might come. Meanwhile, a federal court in Austin is set to consider Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to declare the measure constitutional Thursday. 

A woman demonstrating against Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities law, waves a flag during a march near the San Antonio Riverwalk on June 26, 2017. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia is hearing arguments from Texas cities and counties challenging the bill, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Protesters with posters, Democratic officials and immigrants’ rights groupsdescended on a federal courthouse in San Antonio Monday, marking the first skirmish in what could be a lengthy battle over the state’s new immigration enforcement law — known as Senate Bill 4 or the “sanctuary cities” ban. Here’s what you need to know

Litigation’s not the “appropriate [place] to decide” this, said First Assistant Attorney General Darren McCarty, speaking in support of SB 4. Attorneys for Texas and the Justice Department said the law — set to take effect Sept. 1 — contained language that was “contextual” and not as consequential as some thought, arguing that the issue had already been settled in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court backed a similar state-based provision in Arizona. The measure also wouldn’t require an officer to question a person’s immigration status, supporters said, but instead allows them the opportunity to do so. 

“We think SB 4 is patently unconstitutional,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. Opponents of the measure argued SB 4 would unfairly target communities and serve as the opening act for an eventual police state, where local law enforcement could disregard the federal government’s authority, and said the law had been rushed through the legislative process, resulting in vague language that was hard to interpret. Penalties that could exceed $25,000 also served as another point of contention for plaintiffs, who said the hefty punishment made it “simply unrealistic for any police officer to take a chance” of violating the law. 

Mexico has its doubts, too. Following Monday’s court hearing, the Mexican government announced it was filing an affidavit to express its concerns with SB 4, with the assistant secretary of foreign relations saying the law “further criminalizes the phenomenon of migration.”

• U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declined to make a decision Monday, and he didn’t indicate when a decision might come. Meanwhile, a federal court in Austin is set to consider Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to declare the measure constitutional Thursday

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