LULAC Responds to 5th Circuit Court Ruling on Senate Bill 4

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a ruling by a San Antonio federal judge that found portions of Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) unconstitutional.

On May 8th, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the country’s largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization, filed the first lawsuit against SB 4. The complaint was filed on behalf of a small town near the border with Mexico called El Cenizo, which has had a “safe haven” ordinance since 1999 that prohibits city employees from asking about a person’s immigration status.

In response to today’s ruling, Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., LULAC National General Counsel, issued the following response:

“Today’s ruling, while disappointing, was not unexpected. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is known throughout the United States as conservative and is strongly controlled by Republicans. While Governor Abbott and General Paxton tweet to their supporters that they have won a total victory and that SB 4 is in total force, this is far from the truth. Contrary to what Governor Abbott and General Paxton would have you believe, this three-judge court found certain parts of the language both unconstitutional and not absolutely mandatory. The court ruled that immigration neutral policies allowed local governments to allocate their resources as 'reasonable and necessary’ for their local needs. In other words, immigration enforcement does not have to be their top priority.”

“LULAC, together with our client, the City of El Cenizo, will decide in the next few days where we go from here. We have several options. Rest assured that we will not quit; we will not surrender; and we will not compromise. Governor Abbott and General Paxton, together with their puppet master, President Trump, have declared war on the Mexican people and Latinos in general. We will rise up. We will unite. We will defend.”

Below are highlights that support the City of El Cenizo’s position:

1. The Court upheld the injunction on the issue of free speech and the right of public officials to speak up, protest and criticize SB 4 or similar laws with penalty. That portion was found unconstitutional. 2. The Court made it clear that local communities have an absolute right to allocate their resources where "reasonable and necessary" for their communities. In other words, immigration enforcement does not have to be top priority, to the detriment of the community. See page 13 footnote 6 which states, "We also note that this provision does not require cooperation unless it is “reasonable or necessary.” Tex. Gov’t Code § 752.053(b)(3). Thus, as Texas acknowledges, this provision does not generally preclude immigration-neutral policies regarding bona fide resource allocation—e.g., policies regarding overtime or patrolling locations." 3. Under detainers—at p. 31: complying with ICE detainer requests under SB 4 requires cooperation—but not “blind obedience.” 4. Under “materially limits” discussion—at p. 34: “policies relating to ‘general matters like overtime and patrolling locations’ would not be covered” under SB 4’s “materially limits” prohibition. “SB 4 will ‘not prohibit immigration-neutral local policies regarding bona fide resource allocation."

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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 over 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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