A judge stopped Texas’ controversial sanctuary city ban from being enforced, but the fight isn’t over

FILE PHOTO: A protester against the Texas state law to punish Thomson Reuters

A U.S. district judge struck down a lawsuit Wednesday filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to enforce the state’s recently-passed ban on sanctuary cities.

The Attorney General filed the suit in anticipation of push back after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the sanctuary city ban in May. While Judge Sam Sparks dismissed the lawsuit Wednesday, it is not an end to the issue, as another lawsuit filed in June by the city of San Antonio will now take center stage on the question of the ban’s constitutionality, The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday.

“We were first to file a lawsuit concerning SB 4, filed this case in the only proper court, and moved quickly to consolidate other lawsuits against SB 4 in Austin,” Paxton said in a statement. “The health, safety, and welfare of Texans is not negotiable. We’re disappointed with the court’s ruling and look forward to pressing our winning arguments in the San Antonio cases and beyond (if necessary) on this undoubtedly constitutional law.”

Spark’s ruling essentially determines that the question of the ban’s constitutionality will be decided by San Antonio’s lawsuit rather than the state government’s. But the question being considered is the same: whether cities have the right to direct local officers against working with federal immigration officials.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia presides over the cities’ lawsuit. He held a seven-hour hearing June 26, but has yet to issue a ruling.

San Antonio City Councilman Rey Saldana announced the city’s lawsuit without a vote from the city council in June, and a slew of other Texas sanctuary cities have joined the lawsuit since. Saldana, who has praised his father for immigrating to the U.S. illegally, filed the suit with the Mexican American Legal Defense And Education Fund (MALDEF).

A MALDEF spokesperson called the law “hateful” and “misguided,” arguing the city’s “loss of control” over its police department would result in residents being asked about their immigration status, which MALDEF says violates the 14th Amendment.

But Texas argued to Garcia that San Antonio’s case should be thrown out and law allowed to stand.

“There is an ongoing debate in the country about federal immigration law,” Assistant Attorney General Darren McCarty told Garcia in court. “That is a healthy and appropriate debate, and it should be decided in legislatures and Congress. Where it is not appropriate to decide it — respectfully, your honor — is in litigation.”

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