Councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1) and Rey Saldaña (D4) join other council members and members of pro-immigrant organizations in support of the city's effort to join a lawsuit with MALDEF against SB4, the "sanctuary cities" law.
Councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1) and Rey Saldaña (D4) join other council members and members of pro-immigrant organizations in support of the city's effort to join a lawsuit with MALDEF against SB 4, the "sanctuary cities" law. Credit: Rocío Guenther / San Antonio Report

On Monday, June 26, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia will hear the City of San Antonio’s request for a preliminary injunction to block Senate Bill 4, the “sanctuary cities” law, from taking effect on Sept. 1.

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) is representing the City in the lawsuit, along with the following nonprofit organizations: The Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education, the Workers Defense Project, and La Unión Del Pueblo Entero. The hearing, which is open to the public, will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse at 655 E. César E. Chavez Blvd.

“Judge Garcia consolidated three separate lawsuits into one,” MALDEF Vice President of Litigation Nina Perales told the Rivard Report Friday. “The City of Austin is now a part of our case, [along with] El Paso County, Texas Organizing Project, the City of El Cenizo in Webb County, and Maverick County,”

SB 4, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 7, punishes local officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities and allows law enforcement officers to ask about the immigration status of detained individuals – not just during a lawful arrest.

San Antonio filed suit on June 1, despite Mayor Ivy Taylor’s objection. Following a tense local election season, Taylor’s opponent in the June 10 runoff election and now Mayor-elect Ron Nirenberg sided with the majority of Council members in favor of the lawsuit. Nirenberg will be inaugurated as Mayor of San Antonio on Wednesday, June 21.

On Friday, the State of Texas dropped MALDEF from a pre-emptive lawsuit asking a federal court to declare the “sanctuary cities” law constitutional.

“We wrote them a letter and said that if they didn’t drop us we were going to ask the judge to fine Texas for bringing a frivolous lawsuit against MALDEF,” Perales said. “We’re the lawyers – you don’t sue somebody else’s lawyers. MALDEF has five cases against the State of Texas right now, so it’s not just about SB 4. They were draining our resources in other cases, including school finance and redistricting.”

The pre-emptive lawsuit was filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton on May 8 before any legal action was taken against Senate Bill 4. It still includes the following defendants: Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, all of Austin’s City Council members, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and Austin Interim City Manager Elaine Hart. El Paso County, El Cenizo, Texas Organizing Project, and LULAC have since been added to the list.

“Today, after MALDEF made very clear its intention to pursue all available remedies against the state of Texas for filing a completely frivolous lawsuit against a civil rights law firm, the state relented and filed a voluntary dismissal of all of its claims against MALDEF,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel, in a statement. “This now permits MALDEF to devote its energies to the appropriate forum for resolving the many constitutional questions surrounding SB 4 – federal court in San Antonio.

“Today’s dismissal represents only a partial cure of Governor Abbott’s and Attorney General Paxton’s apparent problem with premature litigation. A more complete cure involves dismissing the entire preemptive lawsuit they filed in Austin, which is illegitimate against the remaining defendants, just as it was against MALDEF.”

As to the SB 4 lawsuit in San Antonio, Perales said, “We don’t know when the decision [from the judge] would come, but June 26 is for us to argue to block SB 4 while the case makes its way through the court.”

Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), a staunch supporter of the lawsuit, also is a plaintiff in the case.

“I’m going to be on the stand because I’m named in the lawsuit, so I will be examined and questioned by both sides,” Saldaña told the Rivard Report Friday. “For us, we’re trying to remain consistent with the message we’ve had from the beginning – SB 4 as a theory and concept that we are fighting against. My voice will be joined by hundreds of other people who will be there in show of support for this lawsuit against this state.”

Several pro-immigrant groups such as RAICESUnite HereTexas Organzing ProjectWorkers Defense Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and Mi Familia Vota, among others, are planning a rally and press conference outside of the Federal Courthouse the day of the hearing. To learn more, click here.

“We’re going to put a very strong case forward,” Perales said. “Our clients include the City of San Antonio and so our case encompasses the concerns of the City and its police force, as well as community-based organizations.”

Saldaña called the lawsuit “historical” since the City of San Antonio has never sued the State before.

“This is a lawsuit that rings with the echoes of what happened in Arizona…this is the beginning of turning around bad policies,” Saldaña said. “We didn’t take this decision lightly. ”

Rocío Guenther has called San Antonio home for more than a decade. Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, she bridges two countries, two cultures, and two languages. Rocío has demonstrated experience in...