Federal judge blocks Texas ban on sanctuary cities in blow for Trump

The ruling is a victory for rights advocates and a setback for other Republican attempts to outlaw areas that limit work of immigration agents

A protest against a new sanctuary cities bill outside the federal courthouse in San Antonio.Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction that blocks key parts of Texas’s ban on so-called sanctuary cities two days before the law was scheduled to go into effect.

The decision from judge Orlando Garcia on Wednesday is a victory for immigration rights advocates and a potential blow for other Republican-led states that may be keen to follow Texas – as well as for the Trump administration, which has vowed to crack down on sanctuary cities.

Coming against the backdrop of Hurricane Harvey, the judge’s ruling will be a welcome boost for the state’s large population of undocumented immigrants. There were concerns that some of those affected by the storm’s widespread flooding had stayed away from shelters or avoided asking for help because they feared that interactions with law enforcement could be a prelude to deportation.

Rumours spread that evacuees were being asked for immigration documentation at shelters, which the city denied on Tuesday in a tweet, writing: “We will not ask for immigration status or papers at any shelter.”

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said on Monday that he would personally offer assistance to any immigrants detained after seeking emergency aid.

“If you need help and someone comes and they require help, and then for some reason, then somebody tries to deport them, I will represent them myself, okay?” he said.

However, Jose Irvinaldama, 23, a trainee pastry chef who found shelter at Houston’s convention centre, said he knew undocumented Latinos who had stayed away lest shelter staff demand papers: “They were worried. They stayed at home.”

Enrique Martinez, an office administrator who also sheltered at the convention centre, said he had heard rumours about Latinos being asked for documents. The rumours turned out to be untrue but some believed them, he said.

The law, known as SB4, was “one of the most extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Latino pieces of legislation in the country,” Jolt, an Hispanic political activism group, said in a statement hailing the judge’s ruling.

“SB4 sought to force local law enforcement to carry out President Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda, opened the door to the racial profiling of Latinos who make up 40% of our…

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