The Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest that sides with Texas in Senate Bill 4 litigation.
SB4 requires law enforcement to honor detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The detainers are voluntary requests to hold someone in jail while their immigration status is investigated. SB4 also states law enforcement agencies can't have policies regarding detainers and that an elected official who violates the law can be removed from office and sent to jail.
After the so-called "sanctuary cities" bill was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a declaratory judgement against the City of Austin, Travis County and the Travis County Sheriff, asking a federal judge to declare the law constitutional.
Soon after that, Austin joined other cities in Texas in filing a lawsuit against the state.
In the statement, the department argues that SB4 is "not preempted by the Supremacy Clause, it is not inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment, and it does not violate the Fourth Amendment."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions provided the following comments in addition to the department's statement:
“President Trump has made a commitment to keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws. Texas has admirably followed his lead by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes.“The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.”
In addition to siding with the State of Texas, the DOJ said it will help Texas defend it's law in court. News that comes as no surprise to Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
"Doesn't surprise me that the Department of Justice is taking a different position than all the big cities in Texas. You know I think the issues are whether or not this law makes our city less safe and to the degree the state can step in and tell our local law enforcement what they have to spend their time doing or not doing, it makes us less safe," said Adler.
"You know, it's interesting, I went to Washington DC, I met with the Attorney General, and in that meeting he confirmed the sheriff in Travis County was not violating federal law, the City of Austin was not violating federal law and therefore under the definition of sanctuary cities by the federal government, Austin was not a sanctuary city that was at risk of losing any money," Adler added. "Well the problem then was that didn't fit with the political rhetoric that we were hearing in the state. So in order to make the facts fir the rhetoric, the state went ahead and made something illegal that was not otherwise illegal. So the state went farther than federal law. The state is now requiring our sheriff here in Travis County to participate in a voluntary program that even the federal government did not require her to participate in."
"Also interesting is our sheriff said she wasn't participating because she was concerned to participate might commit an unconstitutional act and it just so happens two weeks ago that the federal judge in San Antonio, who's in charge of our entire region, ruled that she was right," Adler said.
Judge Orlando Garcia ruled the Bexar County Sheriff was holding people unconstitutionally by holding them solely on ICE detainers. Judge Garcia will hear the case of the cities against the state on Monday, June 26th.
On Thursday, Judge Sam Sparks in Austin will hear the case of the State against Austin.