Texas is appealing a federal court order temporarily blocking the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law that was set to go into effect September 1.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay last week’s district court ruling that blocked parts of Senate Bill 4 from going into effect on schedule. Paxton requested emergency consideration and a ruling within two days.

“The district court’s fundamentally flawed holding that states violate the Fourth Amendment by even voluntarily honoring federal ICE detainer requests threatens to shut down federal-local cooperation that has existed throughout the nation since the 1940s,” Attorney General Paxton told the court. “The district court’s order should be immediately stayed pending appeal, as this injunction has far reaching public safety consequences. Senate Bill 4 is wholly valid, and the state has every right to prohibit its own localities from having sanctuary city policies.”

Paxton also filed a motion Thursday with the U.S. District Court in San Antonio requesting a stay of its preliminary injunction against SB 4 while the state appeals the case.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia – appointed by President Bill Clinton – issued the order blocking portions of SB 4 just two days ahead of the law’s effective date.

The legislature passed SB 4 and the governor signed it into law in May to protect Texans from dangerous criminal aliens by prohibiting sanctuary city policies.

With the urging of pro-illegal immigrant activists, several localities joined a lawsuit initiated by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the tiny border town of El Cenizo seeking to prevent the state from implementing the anti-sanctuary cities law.

SB 4 is “lawful, constitutional and similar to provisions of the state of Arizona’s law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld,” Marc Rylander, communications director for the Office of the Attorney General, said in a statement on the state’s intent to appeal. “Sanctuary cities pose a threat to Texas communities by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and allowing criminal aliens back on our streets.”

Immediately following Garcia’s order, Paxton vowed to defend the constitutionality of SB 4:

“Senate Bill 4 was passed by the Texas Legislature to set a statewide policy of cooperation with federal immigration authorities enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens.


We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”

The judge’s order left intact sections of the law that permit (but don’t require) officers to ask about immigration status during the process of a lawful detention or arrest and to share that information with federal authorities. But it temporarily blocked enforcement of sections allowing local officials to assist or cooperate with federal immigration officers and permitting federal officials to enter local jails and conduct immigration enforcement activities.

Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow and former U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division attorney Hans von Spakovsky says Judge Garcia’s order “is wrong on two levels: It interferes with the prerogatives of a state government, and it misinterprets federal immigration law.”

“Garcia illogically (or intentionally) misreads this statute [8 U.S.C. §1357] to hold that local and state officials cannot assist or cooperate with federal immigration authorities in enforcement activities unless they meet all of the ‘exacting requirements’ of the 287(g) program and its authorizing federal statute.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that Garcia’s ruling makes Texas’ communities less safe, “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities.”

Abbott concurred that U.S. Supreme Court precedent is firmly on Texas’ side. “This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.”

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.