The debate surrounding sanctuary cities took a new twist late Wednesday night when a federal judge blocked the state of Texas’ ban on such cities. Texas state governor Greg Abbott signed the bill nearly three months ago in an event that was broadcast on Facebook Live, and the consequences for defying it looked to be severe. City government entities found disobeying the ban would have been fined by up to $25,500 for each day they broke the new law, while the ban would also have placed misdemeanor charges on police force leaders who refused to comply with it.
The sanctuary city ban itself was due to go into effect in only a few more days, on September 1. However, in the months leading up to that day, lawsuits began to go out. Opponents of the ban, such as city mayors and police officials, were issued lawsuits by the state of Texas as it attempted to force the ban into action.
In response, local Texas jurisdictions began to launch lawsuits of their own. Over the course of the next month, Texas sued its local leaders while local leaders sued their state leaders. Finally, the issue of the ban came before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who blocked the portion of the ban that required local law enforcement officials from enforcing certain federal requests.
This part of the ban stated that local officials had to hold unauthorized immigrants in detention whenever the federal government issued a request. Yet another part of the sanctuary city ban that was blocked included a portion that put restrictions on local cities whenever those cities tried to limit the effectiveness of the ban.
The ban was protested heavily in the state but widely supported by the Republican controlled Legislature, who passed it easily. However, Garcia noted in the ruling that enforcing the ban might create a high level of distrust between local law officials and their surrounding communities.
The ACLU commended the ruling on the grounds that the sanctuary city ban would lead to discrimination against Hispanic individuals in the state, which would violate some of the basic principles of equal treatment under the law that are outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Both sides of the debate are likely to start planning their next moves as Texas is likely to appeal the ruling immediately.
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