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Parts Of The State’s “Sanctuary Cities” Law Are Going Into Effect

Just like that, parts of the state’s “sanctuary cities” ban that a federal district judge halted last month are set to go into effect.

Erika Rich for The Texas Tribune
Protesters opposed to Senate Bill 4, the “sanctuary cities” bill, turn out in force for the last day of the legislative session on May 29, 2017.

What you need to know

Just like that, parts of the state’s “sanctuary cities” ban that a federal district judge halted last month are set to go into effect. Here’s what you need to know:

• A panel of three appellate judges ruled on Monday that provisions of the state’s immigration enforcement law, known as Senate Bill 4, are clear to go into effect while the case plays out on appeal. Last month, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia temporarily halted key parts of SB 4, including a provision that requires jail officials to honor all detainers.

• But hold on: The 5th Circuit also said in its ruling Monday that portions of SB 4 that prevent “materially limiting” cooperation with ICE officials are too vague, holding that the word “limit” could be too broadly interpreted and leaving a decision on that up to the next panel of judges. The trio also gave a mixed signal on another controversial part of the bill that prevents local governments from “adopting, enforcing or endorsing” policies that specifically stop or limit enforcing immigration laws. They kept that injunction in place — but said it only applies to the word “endorse.”

• After the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised it and said his office was confident the entire bill will be found constitutional, while Democrats and immigrant rights groups said the state was utilizing delay tactics to disenfranchise minorities in the state. Also of note: Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez confirmed her office would comply with enforcing ICE detainers — which is quite the policy shift from earlier this year, when she announced in January her office would reduce its cooperation with immigration enforcement officers. If you remember, that led to a public back-and-forth between her and Gov. Greg Abbott, who eventually cut off funding for Travis County programs.

• Are you confused? The legal challenges on SB 4 are complicated; a hearing on the state’s appeal of Garcia’s ruling is set for Nov. 6 — but the judges ruled that the detainer provision can stand to an extent, for now. The judges’ ruling on Monday will probably stick around for several months, until the 5th Circuit decides SB 4’s full fate.

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