On Monday, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton announced that the state had filed a lawsuit against a handful of local officials who have opposed its ban on "sanctuary cities."
The law, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott a day prior, makes it possible to punish sheriffs and police chiefs who refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“Unfortunately, some municipalities and law enforcement agencies are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government and claim that [the law] is unconstitutional,” Paxton said in a statement.
Many opponents do believe the law is unconstitutional because it allows officers to ask about someone’s immigration status during routine stops, which is likely to lead to racial profiling.
Those named in the lawsuit include Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who said she would not voluntarily comply with federal requests to detain people solely because of their immigration status; Austin Mayor Steve Adler; the city’s interim city manager; each of Austin’s City Council members; and civil rights group Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
“For five months, we’ve been on the sidelines while the legislature has treated Austin’s safety like a political football,” Adler said in a statement. “I’m glad the action is moving to court where it’s not about politics, it’s about the law. A judge will decide whether the United States of America or Texas determines federal immigration policy and whether local police and prosecutors have the discretion to keep their communities safe.”
For Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, the lawsuit shows the state’s “apparent high anxiety” about its new law.
The law goes into effect on Sept 1.