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Federal Judge Protects Sanctuary City Policies


By order dated August 30, 2017, a federal judge sitting in the Western District of Texas, the Hon. Orlando Garcia, entered an injunction against the implementation of Texas’ new anti-sanctuary city law, which was designed primarily to punish cities—and their officials—who resist the efforts of federal agencies to enforce national immigration laws.

Among other things, the Texas statute prevented state agencies from prohibiting their employees from:

1) Inquiring into the immigration status of persons under arrest

2) Sending such information to federal agencies for immigration enforcement

3) Assisting or cooperating with federal immigration officers

4) Permitting federal immigration officers to enter state facilities to conduct enforcement activities

In short, the federal judge ruled that all these activities are “pre-empted” by federal law, i.e., that the federal laws in the field of immigration are so dominant as to preclude any state laws on the subject (so-called “field preemption”).

The federal judge also granted the injunction of First Amendment free-speech grounds, in that the Texas statutory regime provides that a Texas official may be removed from office in part by evidence of public statements by that official indicating that the official engaged in prohibited conduct, i.e., hindering immigration enforcement. The judge found that specific provision to be an undue burden on the free-speech right of Texas officials under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

It is important to remember that this is a preliminary injunction. The case will still proceed and may proceed to trial on the merits of the case. However, this ruling will impact how criminal defense lawyers may address cases involving immigrants. Immigration attorneys will surely be effected.

The full opinion can be read here: