Although Rio Grande Valley cities were slow to take action against Senate Bill 4, they have been quick to act over the past few weeks. On Tuesday evening, three more cities joined the growing list of Valley jurisdictions to voice their opposition to the law.
The Pharr and San Juan City Commissions unanimously passed resolutions opposing the bill, which was scheduled to go into effect Friday until U.S District Judge Orlando Garcia granted an injunction the night before. This halted major provisions of the bill from becoming law.
The Alamo City Commission also voiced its opposition to the bill after discussing it with the city attorney during a closed executive session, and a formal resolution will be on the agenda for the next meeting, said Mayor Diana Martinez.
SB 4 – commonly known as an “anti-sanctuary cities” bill – allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest in addition to punishes local elected officials that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Pharr’s resolution states the city “firmly condemns” the bill and “supports all efforts to thwart the restrictions and unfunded mandates of the law, and opposes any efforts to further the enforcement of the bill,” whereas San Juan’s states that city commissioners and residents “express opposition to Senate Bill 4.”
“It is my opinion that we have plenty of laws on the books already to address any and all these issues,” Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez said prior to the vote, for which Place 6 Commissioner Mario Bracamontes was absent. “It’s not prudent to be using our taxpaying dollars to have a local municipality being involved with federal issues – if the state of the federal government wants to do their job, we welcome it. That’s why we pay taxes.”
During public testimony at the Alamo meeting, concerned residents urged commissioners to also pass a resolution against SB 4.
LUPE Executive Director Juanita Valdez-Cox told the commissioners the celebration over Garcia’s injunction was “short-lived” after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday appealed Garcia’s ruling with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It’s critical that you all stand strong with the community,” Valdez-Cox told the commissioners. “If the (5th Circuit) Court agrees with Paxton, this issue will continue again.”
Tuesday, Paxton asked the same court to stay – or temporarily suspend Garcia’s ruling blocking SB 4 from becoming law, and he requested emergency consideration and a ruling within two days.
“This injunction has far reaching public safety consequences. Senate Bill 4 is wholly valid, and the state has every right to prohibit its own localities from having sanctuary city policies,” Paxton said in a statement.
But for their part, Valley elected officials disagree, as McAllen, Palmview, La Joya and Rio Grande City, as well as Hidalgo, Starr and Cameron Counties have all passed resolutions opposing it.