AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Texas has taken the unusual step of preemptively suing to stop some of the lawsuits that would challenge its new ‘sanctuary cities’ ban. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office filed the federal lawsuit on Monday, a day after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law.
The ban, which is slated to take effect on September 1, requires government entities and police agencies to follow immigration laws and detainer requests. It would let police officers ask people about their immigration status during traffic stops. Paxton argues that it is constitutional and vital to the security of the state’s border with Mexico.
The Texas Legislature passed the bill last Wednesday.
“Let’s face it, the reason why so many people come to America is because we are a nation of laws,” Abbott explained during the live Facebook video where he signed the bill. “Texas is doing its part to keep it that way.”
Paxton said that the bill “guarantees cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement to protect Texans” and noted that “some municipalities and law enforcement agencies are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government.” Many major police chiefs across the state have spoken out against the bill including those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.
Texas does not currently have any cities which have formally declared themselves as ‘sanctuaries’ for immigrants.
Paxton’s lawsuit targets immigrant rights groups and those local officials who are likely to challenge the law. Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund, called the lawsuit frivolous.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins believes that the ‘sanctuary cities’ ban could have a chilling effect on the willingness of local immigrants to work with members of law enforcement. “The result of this law is going to be,” Jenkins said, “it’s going to drive people to report less crime, and we’re already seeing that in places in Texas.”
However, unlike a similar law in Arizona, the Texas ban does not require law enforcement to ask someone about immigration status. Officials can make that decision on their own. “There is a provision in the bill that says, if you are a witness in the case or if you’re a victim, then you cannot be asked about your immigration status unless it relates, somehow, to solving the case or issues specific to that case,” Paxton explained. “Some of the complaints I’ve heard in Dallas are just not accurate.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)