The city of El Paso voted on Tuesday to join the growing list of local governments that have filed a legal challenge in hopes of stopping Texas’ new immigration enforcement law from going into effect.
The city council’s unanimous vote to join El Paso County and the cities of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston to halt the legislation, Senate Bill 4, means Fort Worth is the only major Texas city that hasn’t registered its opposition to the bill. Maverick and Bexar counties and the border city of El Cenizo are original plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in San Antonio in May, just one day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill.
Known as the "sanctuary cities" law, SB 4 would allow local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and would punish local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration "detainers" — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation. Unless the court intervenes, the law is set to go into effect Sept. 1.
In a statement, the city council said even though El Paso is not considered a “sanctuary city,” they voted to join the effort because local leaders are “concerned with provisions in SB 4 that raise questions related to the compliance and integration of the proposed bill in current law enforcement operations.”
“The unfunded mandate is expected to put additional strain on the El Paso Police Department, as SB 4 will add an extra requirement on the workforce that is already seeing a shortage in staff,” the statement continues. “The City of El Paso has a long successful history of working alongside our federal law enforcement partners, to add additional mandates on local resources will only limit officers from performing their public safety responsibilities.”
The council also made it clear that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which currently represents the Bexar County plaintiffs in the lawsuit, would be footing the bill for the litigation and that there would be no cost to El Paso taxpayers.
The El Paso City Council’s decision comes a day after U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia heard oral arguments on the case in San Antonio. Garcia didn’t rule on the plaintiffs' motion to temporarily halt the measure as it winds through the judicial process, but he told all the parties in the case he would work diligently to make a ruling soon.