Undocumented immigrants and their advocates in the Lone Star State received an eleventh-hour reprieve.
Since its passage and signing, Texas Senate Bill 4 has served as a lightning rod for controversy. What was set to take effect on September 1 would establish civil penalties for local governments and law enforcement officials refusing to cooperate with immigration laws and detention requests. They faced $25,500 in fines for every day of noncompliance.
With the sand in the hourglass running out, a federal judge temporarily blocked key provisions banning sanctuary jurisdictions in Texas. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia prevented Texas Senate Bill 4 from being implemented while a lawsuit challenging the law moves forward.
The injunction does not represent a complete victory for the ACLU and other opponents. Because of ways that could be applied constitutionally, a provision would still take effect that authorizes law enforcement to inquire about immigration status of those they stop.
Lee Gelernt, American Civil Liberties Union deputy director of its Immigrants’ Rights Project heralded the ruling on behalf of the ACLU. He cited the most vocal critics – police chiefs and mayors – who feared the harm done to Texas communities.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott referred to the decision as a setback that “makes Texas’ communities less safe.” He said that he is particularly concerned that gang members and dangerous criminals will be set free to “prey upon our communities.”
In spite of the setback, Abbott is confident that the law will be upheld as constitutional. He also announced an immediate appeal.