The Trump administration on Monday joined the legal battle over a Texas law that bans sanctuary cities, saying it will support the state’s defense against a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups and multiple city governments.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) notified lawyers for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the groups suing Texas over the controversial law, that it will file court documents detailing the federal government’s interest in the case. DOJ also plans to send attorneys to a June 26 court hearing in San Antonio, where a judge will decide whether to issue an injunction against the law before it goes into effect on Sept. 1, Bloomberg reported.
Luis Vera, a LULAC lawyer representing the Texas border city of El Cenizo, said DOJ plans to ask U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia to deny the group’s motion to block the law, known as Senate Bill 4 (SB4).
“I received an email from the Department of Justice,” Vera told ABC affiliate KSAT 12. “President Donald Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to enter the case against El Cenizo and to file a brief and a statement of interest in support of the state of Texas, asking the federal courts to deny our motion for preliminary injunction.”
LULAC and officials in Maverick County and El Cenizo originally filed the lawsuit against SB4 on May 8, shortly after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. Since the initial filing, several of Texas’ largest cities and counties have joined the suit, including San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. The Houston city council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to add itself to the list of plaintiffs, reports the Texas Tribune. (RELATED: Texas Cities Plan Legal Fight Against Anti-Sanctuary Law)
SB4 is the nation’s first statewide law that bans sanctuary jurisdictions and compels local police departments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Its most controversial provision allows police officers to inquire about the immigration status of people they detain, including the subjects of traffic stops.
Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who have both been named as defendants in the lawsuit, say SB4 is necessary to ensure that violent criminals are taken off the streets. Opponents argue that it will lead to racial profiling and undermine trust between immigrants and law enforcement.
The growing legal battle over the law has exposed the divide between left-leaning Texas cities and the conservative state legislature over how to respond to the Trump administration’s tough immigration policies.
As the case makes its way through the federal courts, it will serve as a bellwether for similar fights in states such as Tennessee and North Carolina, where Republican-controlled state governments and Democratic-dominated municipalities are sharply divided on the question of how much support they should give to federal immigration enforcement efforts.
“This [Texas] is a battleground,” Vera told KSAT 12.
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