McAllen participates in Senate Bill 4 federal appeal

McALLEN — The city of McAllen is participating in a federal appeal against the state of Texas regarding Senate Bill 4, better known as the “sanctuary cities” law.

The city of El Cenizo, a small city in Webb County located 20 miles south of Laredo, is appealing SB4 in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. McAllen was asked to participate as amicus curiae, meaning the city is not a party to the case but will assist by providing information to the court.

Those participating, in addition to McAllen, include Baltimore, Chicago, Laredo, Iowa City, Iowa; King County, Washington; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; Santa Clara, California, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

McAllen has not identified as a “sanctuary city.”

“SB4 represents a dramatic overreach motivated by politics rather than sound policy judgment — that will not make Texas’s communities safer,” the brief states. “Texas’s claim that it enacted SB4 to ‘keep dangerous criminals off our streets’ … is misguided at best given that immigrants in the United States are less likely to commit crimes than native-born residents. …”

The 5th Circuit of Appeals ruled in September that parts of SB4 can go into effect. In August, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia blocked the part of the bill that requires jailers to honor all detainers, which the 5th Circuit overruled.

The appellate court scheduled a hearing for Nov. 6 to hear arguments from cities such as Austin, Houston, San Antonio and other cities as well as counties and advocacy groups that claim the law is unconstitutional.

The amicus brief McAllen participated in argues that SB4 creates vast uncertainty, operational challenges for local governments, undermines local discretion and imposes significant financial burdens on local municipalities.

“SB4 strips local governments of their discretion to set sensible law enforcement policy based on the specific needs of their communities, mandating that they reallocate scarce local resources to take on the substantial costs of immigration enforcement,” the amicus brief McAllen participated in states. “By forcing local entities to follow sweeping state mandates rather than tailor their policies to local needs, SB4 undermines the community trust in local law enforcement that is critical to public safety.

“And despite the ill-defined nature of its commands, SB4 enforces compliance through harsh penalties, including removal from office and criminal charges. Thus, SB4 places local governments and officials in an impossible position — attempt to follow its vague directives (and undermine local needs, public safety, and the rights of residents), or face harsh punishments.”