Federal Judge Blocks Texas Immigration Enforcement Law

A federal district judge this week temporarily blocked enforcement of key parts of a controversial Texas immigration enforcement law two days before it was scheduled to take effect, The Texas Tribune reported.

Texas Senate Bill 4, in an effort to outlaw 'sanctuary' entities, would give campus police departments and other law enforcement agencies broader powers to question the immigration status of individuals that they detain or arrest. For some Texas college students, who were already wary, the prospect of the new law, which had been scheduled to go into effect on Friday, has added more fears.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction of the legislation, halting the part of the bill that would require jail officials to honor all detainers and another that would prohibits "a pattern or practice that 'materially limits' the enforcement of immigration laws." The detainer provision, he argued, would violate the Fourth Amendment.

Judge Garcia did let stand one of the most controversial portions of the law—allowing police officers to question the immigration status of people they detain. However, he explained that officers who make the inquiry are limited in what they can do with the information.

"If during a lawful detention or arrest an officer obtains information that a detained or arrested individual is undocumented he may not arrest the individual on this basis," he said, adding that the officer is not required to ask the question. "SB 4 gives local officers discretion to inquire and share information, but it does not provide them with discretion to act upon the information that they may obtain," Garcia wrote in a footnote to his 94-page ruling.

The bill was scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, but opponents of the legislation, argue that the bill violates several provisions of the Constitution. The federal judge's decision means the legislation is on hold until that issue is decided or until the preliminary injunction is appealed, the Tribune reported.


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