Opponents of Senate Bill 4 ask federal appeals court to reconsider recent ruling

Sami Sparber

After the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed most of Senate Bill 4, commonly known as the Sanctuary Cities Bill, to go into effect last month, immigrant advocates promised the fight against the proposed legislation was far from over.

“The decision is a blow to the civil rights of every Texan,” said Efren Olivares, racial and economic justice director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, in a statement. “But we are not deterred. We knew this was going to be a long fight when we started and we are prepared to go the distance.”

The Texas Civil Rights Project is one of several plaintiffs, including the city of Austin and Travis County, who asked the 5th Circuit Court on March 27 to rehear the case en banc, meaning every member of the court would consider the lawsuit, rather than a smaller panel.

As written, SB4 permits local law enforcement to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest. It also requires local entities to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests, which ask officials to turn over immigrants who may be subject to deportation.

“En banc review is necessary to maintain the uniformity of this Court’s decisions and adherence to Supreme Court precedent,” said the plaintiffs in their motion. “En banc review is also warranted because of the exceptional importance of this case to sheriffs, police chiefs, mayors, county judges, city council members and other local government officials across Texas.”

Several local entities have previously filed suit against SB4 including the cities of El Paso, San Antonio and Houston. If the 5th Circuit Court agrees to hear the case, all parties who have previously filed suit will become involved, said Nina Perales, the vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, according to the Texas Tribune.

Stephanie Villanueva, a public health junior, said although last month’s ruling was “heartbreaking and stressful,” she is hopeful SB4 will ultimately be defeated.

“It’s great to have the support of big organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union on our side because they bring resources and expertise to the table,” said Villanueva, a member of UT’s chapter of Jolt Texas, a Latinx advocacy group. “Local organizations also have people on the ground working tirelessly to spread the word, create close-knit communities and give everyone hope. We need both strategies, legal and grassroots, to win this fight.”