LULAC and ACLU File Preliminary Injunction

June 5, 2017

Washington, DC – This early morning, in the case styled The City of El Cenizo… et. al. vs. State of Texas…et.al., the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed the first major attack to stop Senate Bill 4 from ever taking effect.

The Plaintiffs are, the City of El Cenizo, the City’s Mayor, Raul Reyes, Maverick County and elected officials Sheriff Tom Schmerber and Constable Mario Hernandez and Texas LULAC and its thousands of members throughout Texas. The Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction barring implementation of Texas Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”) because the law is patently unconstitutional on numerous grounds and the balance of harms strongly militates in favor of preserving the status quo. The public interest weighs heavily in favor of an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect on September 1, 2017.

SB 4 is an extraordinary intrusion on plaintiffs’ ability to govern the City and County in the manner they deem best for their residents. Every day, these elected officials have to carefully weigh the facts, then make difficult decisions about the best allocation of their limited police resources to ensure the safety and well-being of their community. These officials have also spent years building trust with their communities and fostering a sense of inclusion. SB 4 undermines all of this work, not only in Plaintiffs communities but undermines similar work in communities across the entire state.

SB 4 is not directed at local enforcement of state law. Rather, SB 4 compels local entities to enforce federal immigration law, forcing them to do so regardless of whether such enforcement will divert resources away from more pressing police needs or place their officials in jeopardy of being sued for unconstitutional actions by individuals who are stopped, questioned or detained in violation of Fourth Amendment and equal protection, protections. Critically, moreover, SB 4 imposes the most severe penalties on local officials who are deemed to violate law: hefty civil monetary penalties running into multiple thousands; removal from office; and even potential jail time.

Making matters worse, SB 4 is written in such vague and ambiguous terms that local officials will inevitably be left to guess whether any particular action or policy violates the law. If they guess wrong and do not engage in full-stop immigration enforcement (such as asking every single motorist they detain, even for the smallest of infractions, about their immigration status), they risk the State imposing massive penalties and removal from office. If they choose instead to avoid even the possibility of incurring these penalties by engaging in immigration enforcement at every turn, they will have to divert scarce resources away from more pressing police needs and will create a community of fear and anxiety, with the inevitable result that individuals (including Texas LULAC’s members) will be profiled and unlawfully detained.

The fears of all these plaintiffs are consistent with the views expressed by others, including the Texas Major Cities Chiefs and the Texas Police Chiefs Association:SB 4 requires local law enforcement to take a more active role in immigration enforcement; this will tear down what we’ve worked so hard to build up. Officers will start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, only inquire about the immigration status of individuals based on their appearance. This will lead to distrust of police, less cooperation from members of the community and will foster the belief that they cannot seek assistance from police for fear of beings subjected to an immigration status investigation. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone.

See Art Acevedo and James McLaughlin, Police chiefs: SB 4 is a “lose-lose’ for Texas, available at http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Police-chiefs-SB-4-is-alose-lose-for-Texas-11110336.php.

Plaintiffs are urging the Court to issue a preliminarily injunction to enjoin SB 4 so the Court can engage in a deliberate assessment of the law’s legality. Doing so will prevent irreparable harm to the plaintiffs and their communities and communities throughout the state of Texas. In contrast, the State will suffer no harm from a preliminary injunction; no legal void would be left. The status quo will simply remain in place, with local jurisdictions retaining the authority to choose how best to police their own communities and leaving the federal government with the responsibility for enforcing federal immigration law.

Lead Attorneys for Plaintiffs:
Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. is the National General Counsel of LULAC. Luis has held this position longer than any other counsel in the history of LULAC and has dedicated the last 25 years off his professional life fighting the discriminatory practices of Texas and other States in civil and voting rights, most recently in the 2011 and 2013 Texas redistricting and the 2013 Voter ID laws in Texas, both of which have been found to be intentionally discriminate against Latinos and African Americans in Texas.

Renea Hicks is a former solicitor general of Texas, and has spent his entire professional life both in advocating for the State of Texas and other government entities and fighting their discriminatory practices in the areas of civil rights and voting rights, most recently in the 2011 and 2013 Texas redistricting and the 2013 Voter ID laws in Texas, both of which have been found to be intentionally discriminate against Latinos and African Americans in Texas.

Edgar Saldivar is senior staff counsel with the ACLU of Texas. The ACLU began its work in Texas with the San Antonio pecan Sheller’s strike of 1938, led by famed organizer Emma Tenayuca, where laborers who tried to exercise their rights to free speech and free association in order to improve their working conditions were met with a brutal response by law enforcement. With the ACLU’s help, the Sheller’s ultimately won their battle, and the ACLU of Texas has remained on the front lines of the fight for civil liberties in Texas.

Lee Gelernt is Deputy Director of the ACLU’s National Immigrant’s Rights Project and Director of the Project’s Program on Access to the Courts. Lee has been an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union since 1992, and works on immigration and national security issues. Lee has argued numerous groundbreaking civil rights cases at all levels of the federal court system, including in the United States Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits. Lee Gelernt has also testified as an expert before the United States Senate on habeas corpus and judicial review issues. In addition to his work at the ACLU, Mr. Gelernt is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and a visiting lecturer in clinical law at Yale Law School. Most recently, Lee is the attorney who sought and secured the United States wide federal injunction of the Muslim travel ban against the Trump administration, just affirmed by the 4th Circuit Ct. of Appeals in Virginia, and is now before the United States Supreme Court.

Peter Schey acts as a consulting attorney from the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Los Angeles, California. Since its founding in 1980 the CHRCL has fought to secure the human rights and civil rights of immigrants. Peter Schey and CHRCL secured the federal injunction and federal court oversight of the prisons that hold immigrant women and children throughout the United States.

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The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit www.LULAC.org.

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