Austin v. Texas: SB4 Fight Goes Federal

The city of Austin has joined a federal lawsuit to stop the enforcement of SB4. 

The legislation, which bans sanctuary city policies in Texas, was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott last month.

It’s argued in the federal lawsuit, that the city of Austin joined Friday, that several elements of SB4- are unconstitutional.

"We want our day in court,” said Mayor Steve Adler

In announcing the lawsuit Adler said teaming up with San Antonio and others to fight SB4 was a matter of protecting local rule.

"For far too long, the legislature has been playing political football with the safety of our city, and other cities in Texas, and now we get to move to a different forum."

A key part of the law prevents local communities from punishing police officers for asking people they stop about immigration status. FOX7 asked Mayor Adler why he has a problem with allowing police to do something that is already legal.

"There is no problem as he is arresting someone to identify themselves, that’s important for them to ask too, but somebody's immigration status, if it's not relevant to a crime that is suspected of being committed, I don’t know what he does with that information, because what we know is that our officers are not allowed to arrest someone for a civil offense,” said Mayor Adler.

Up until now the fights over SB4 have been in the form of street marches. Demonstrations at legislative hearings. Rallies, as well as scuffles in the Statehouse gallery between protestors and troopers. That sparked pushing and shoving on the House floor between lawmakers after threats were allegedly made.

Friday, members of the Workers Defense Project made no apology for mounting an aggressive opposition.

"Make no mistake about it, when Governor Abbott signed SB4 he picked a fight with thousands of working families and immigrant families here in the state of Texas and that is not a fight he is going to win,” said Jose Garza with the Workers Defense Project.

Friday’s lawsuit is actually the second federal case to be filed over SB4. On May 8th the State made what was considered to be a preemptive strike.

In the lawsuit  Attorney General Ken Paxton requested a federal judge to declare SB4 constitutional.

SB4 also makes it possible to fine communities that do not follow the law and even remove officials who do not comply. The legislation gained traction during the session in part because of a new policy by Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez.

Hernandez decided that only a few ICE detainers would honor inmates in the jail. As a result undocumented immigrants, charged with things like DUI, Assault and Theft, can bond out of jail and avoid getting turned over to federal agents.

"SB 4 is constitutional, lawful and a vital step in securing our borders, this is a public safety issue that requires swift resolution,” said Paxton in a statement issued in May.