Heading for court, El Paso, Austin, San Antonio and other Texas cities are joining the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) in suing the state over Senate Bill 4, the anti-sanctuary law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The move follows a lawsuit filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and two border jurisdictions: Maverick County (where the jobless rate is 10 percent and the major industry is an Indian casino) and the tiny town of El Cenizo (where many residents are illegal).
Opponents of SB4 call it the “show-us-your-papers” law. Abbott says it’s nothing of the sort.
There is no requirement to show papers,” he told NBC News. “It does require sheriffs to honor ICE detainers.”
“Unless you’ve committed a crime and are wanted by the federal government, you have nothing to fear,” the Republican governor said. (Watch video here.)
Abbott said 142 charged suspects on requested immigration detainers were released by the Travis County jail in Austin during a one-week period earlier this year.
On May 7, the state of Texas sued Travis County, charging officials there with being “publicly hostile to cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.”
The toughest anti-sanctuary law in the nation, SB4 imposes civil penalties on local officials who fail to cooperate with immigration authorities.
While preparing its lawsuit against Texas, MALDEF stated, apparently without irony: “We hope that both the governor and the attorney general will seek treatment for an apparent problem with premature litigation.”
San Antonio – which has not officially declared itself a sanctuary city but behaves as one – joined the legal fracas last week and dug into taxpayers’ pockets to provide $150,000 in legal aid to illegal immigrants there. The City Council acted behind closed doors, with no public hearing.
“We fought Senate Bill 4 at the Legislature, and now we will fight it in the courtroom,” Councilman Rey Saldaña said later, after praising his father for entering the U.S. illegally.
Along with the immigrant-heavy cities of Houston, El Paso, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin, San Antonio carries among the highest municipal debt in the nation.
San Antonio activist George Rodriguez, a former LULAC member, was among those perplexed by the city’s lurch into litigation.
“Mayor Ivy Taylor and other city leaders claim that San Antonio, which has not officially been declared a sanctuary city. If so, why join a lawsuit over a law that does not affect the city?” he asked.
“The money they’re spending on legal fights could be better used for fixing streets and sidewalks.”