Texas can’t punish so-called sanctuary cities, after a federal judge temporarily blocked a measure that would have let Texas’s Republican leadership jail sheriffs and fine towns for failing to fully cooperate with U.S. immigration policies.
The state is expected to appeal to try to reinstate the law, which was set to take effect Friday.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio refused on Wednesday to approve provisions that threaten local officials with firing or up to a year in jail and municipalities with fines of up to $25,500 a day for failing to fall in line with Texas Republican lawmakers’ goal to step up immigration enforcement.
The judge also questioned provisions of the law, called Senate Bill 4, that could lead officials to illegally detaining U.S. citizens or seizing lawful immigrants who aren’t accused of any crimes.
“There is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe,” Garcia said in a 94-page decision. “There is also ample evidence that localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, harm the state of Texas.”
Many Texas mayors, county officials and police chiefs warned the law would worsen public safety by frightening immigrants into not reporting crimes or seeking medical care. They also complained it punished public officials for expressing their opinions or adopting policies that discourage local officers from acting as immigration agents without supervision.
The ban, which also applies to university officials and campus police, lacked concrete standards for measuring compliance, opponents complained. That left it up to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — a Tea Party Republican — to decide whether a city or official should be charged with a violation.