Illegal immigration concept Background of transparent American flag behind a chain link fence and concrete stairway

States Flex their Muscles on Immigration

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business


On August 30, a U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction against a Texas law set to take effect that sought to crack down against so-called “sanctuary cities”, or cities where local authorities limit or refuse to cooperate with federal immigration laws and any federal efforts to enforce these laws. According to The Washington Post, the Texas law, known as SB 4, contained provisions that would have prohibited key sanctuary city policies, including invalidating any local ordinances that prohibit local law enforcement from inquiring about a person’s immigration status and complying with detainer requests. It also would have created a new misdemeanor crime for police chiefs of sanctuary cities who fail to enforce federal immigration laws.


The ruling came just two days shy of the law’s September 1 effective date. The law now remains in limbo, with Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton vowing to fight the ruling in court, while maintaining that the law is constitutional and should be allowed to take effect. The suit was supported by the cities of Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio, five of the six largest cities in the state with a cumulative population of over six million, as noted by Judge Orlando Garcia in his injunction order.


In another move to push the federal government to act on immigration, the attorneys general of 10 states, including Texas, are threatening to sue the Trump Administration if it does not take steps to end the Obama-era program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program, according to The Texas Tribune, has shielded an estimated 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The Trump administration has reportedly not made a final decision on whether to end or continue the program, though a decision is expected in early September, the Chicago Tribune reports.


These moves by Texas, a major player in immigration policy debates, underscores a recent trend in state politics. Immigration, traditionally a field of policy left to the government, is increasingly being taken up at the state level, both by those who support immigration and those seeking to curb it. According to research by NCSL, at least 36 states and the District of Columbia introduced legislation in 2017 relating to the protection or prohibition of sanctuary city policies. Georgia, Indiana and Mississippi all passed legislation similar to Texas’ SB 4, seeking to require local officials to comply with federal immigration law. California, Connecticut, Illinois and Vermont, meanwhile, all passed legislation that would effectively turn the states into “sanctuary states” by limiting state and federal cooperation on immigration and deportation efforts. Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation that would have required local officials to comply with federal immigration law.


Immigration reform remains a priority for Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration, with federal action in the coming months all but assured. Equally as assured, are state level reactions – legislation, lawsuits, public-posturing and drawn-out court cases. Should the Trump administration move forward with any plans to curb immigration, state lawmakers will undoubtedly be along for the ride, either by passing legislation in support or opposition, or readying lawsuits to challenge federal authority.