With the legal meter running up lawyers’ billable hours, San Antonio officials are discovering the high price of flouting Texas’s anti-sanctuary law.
The state attorney general sued the city last November after Police Chief William McManus released 12 illegal aliens. The lawsuit alleges that the chief blocked federal immigration authorities from detaining the migrants, who were found inside a northbound tractor-trailer in December 2017.
In less than four months of pre-trial wrangling, San Antonio has paid an Austin law firm $258,725 in legal expenses. That’s just for starters. City Attorney Andy Segovia told KSAT News the case could drag on for a year to 18 months. On that timetable, outside attorneys’ fees could easily surpass $1 million.
“It’s a complicated case,” said Segovia, while maintaining that the city did not violate Texas’s SB 4 anti-sanctuary law.
A.J. Louderback, a Texas sheriff who helped craft SB 4, said the case isn’t complicated at all; the city just fouled up. “It was a simple call to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or Homeland Security Investigations to take over,” he told FAIR.
If the state prevails and pursues civil penalties prescribed by the law, San Antonio (read: taxpayers) could be required to pay more than $10 million in fines.
Reports of the ballooning legal bills come at an inconvenient time for Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Council members, who are up for election next month. Trying to have it both ways, Nirenberg says San Antonio is not a sanctuary city, but he supported city efforts – ultimately unsuccessful — to kill SB 4 in 2017.
An estimated 85,000 illegal aliens resided in the San Antonio metro area in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. The ongoing surge of migrants, including 1,000 who disembarked at a downtown Greyhound station one day last month, has undoubtedly raised that number.
George Rodriguez, a conservative local activist, suggested that “public officials who facilitate someone breaking laws should be removed, and they should use their own money to defend themselves in court.”
Notably, two high-ranking officials have departed amid the costly legal contest. City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who appointed Chief McManus, abruptly retired earlier this year and Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni announced this week he is leaving to become city manager of Corpus Christi.
Those departures may be merely coincidental, but San Antonio taxpayers undoubtedly wish they, too, could get clear of this metastasizing mess.