At the same time that the federal, Texas, and Houston governments were all working together to respond to the historic disaster that Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath have caused, they've all been at each others' throats over a state immigration law that was poised to go into effect before the waters receded. Texas was set to require both local police forces and public colleges to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, with police chiefs and sheriffs who refused facing possible prosecution. Additionally, the law would make it mandatory for local law enforcement to comply with all ICE detainers, which are requests to hold people in jail for up to 48 hours after they would have otherwise been released, so that they may be questioned or picked up by ICE if their immigration status is in question. Most notably, Garcia did not block the provision of SB 4 that prevents law enforcement from asking about immigration status, although he stressed that law enforcement officials are not allowed to detain people exclusively due to their immigration status. SB 4 was authored by State Senator Charles Perry (R- Lubbock) and it was set to go into effect on September 1. This law was never about good public policy-it was passed to criminalize almost half of Texas, sweep immigrants into a deportation dragnet, and punish local law enforcement for not volunteering to do the job of federal enforcement agents.
"Although this law has been vilified in the media, the facts reveal that SB 4 is a reasonable measure to ensure truly violent criminals are kept off our streets", he said in a statement. In its ruling today, the court also rejected provisions in SB 4 that attempted to silence critical public officials in a deplorable affront to their free speech rights.
The law, known as SB4, was "one of the most extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Latino pieces of legislation in the country", Jolt, an Hispanic political activism group, said in a statement hailing the judge's ruling.
Major Democrat-run cities in Texas including Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas joined the challenge to the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in May.
Orlando Garcia of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas hasn't completely shut down the law.
But a US district judge in San Antonio is questioning if it's constitutional.
"Thanks to this federal court ruling, the State of Texas' discriminatory law has been stopped in its tracks".
But on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled it was unlikely to withstand constitutional tests, and prevented implementation of key parts of the bill, called SB4.
"Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe".
The new Texas law uses the non-medical term "dismemberment abortion" to describe a procedure in which forceps and other instruments are used to remove the fetus from the womb. ILRC staff has held legal trainings with attorneys and advocates to help them defend immigrants who may be impacted by SB 4 and related policies.