Appellate Court Reinstates Portion of “Sanctuary City” Bill

Last Monday, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated some key provisions of S.B. 4 (the so-called “sanctuary city” bill) that were temporarily blocked by a federal district judge earlier this month.

Most notably, the panel determined that the provision in S.B. 4 requiring law enforcement agencies to “comply with, honor, and fulfill” any federal immigration detainer request can go into effect. However, the court interpreted the provision as not requiring detention pursuant to every federal detainer request.

Instead, the panel read the language to require local law enforcement agencies to cooperate according to existing federal immigration detainer practice and law. In other words, the court’s decision seemingly “leaves the door open” for a law enforcement agency to refuse to honor a detainer request.

The panel upheld parts of the district judge’s temporary injunction, as well. One of the primary sections of the S.B. 4 provides that “a local entity or campus police department may not… adopt, enforce, or endorse a policy under which the entity or department prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws.” The panel determined that, while a local entity may not adopt or enforce such a policy pursuant to the language of the bill, sufficient confusion exists regarding a local entity “endorsing” this type of policy that the term “endorse” is effectively removed from the bill language for now.

Finally, the panel agreed with the district judge that the term “materially limits” used in the provision quoted above and elsewhere is too expansive, and held that interpreting that term is best left for a later court’s decision on the merits of the case. 

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League. 

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