Sanctuary cities legislation likely to result in legal action

SAPD police chief: Officers will need training in immigration law

SAN ANTONIO – Even before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs the so-called “sanctuary cities bill” into law, as he’s promised, legal challenges to overturn it are expected.

“Somebody will file something quickly. They always do,” said Luis Vera Jr., the national general counsel for the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

Vera said LULAC, the American Civil Liberties Union and other similar groups will likely file for an injunction after the bill is enacted into law.

“You ask for an injunction to stop the enforcement of the bill by showing irreparable harm and immediate harm and show the likelihood of success,” Vera said.

Vera has helped to successfully challenge the Texas voter ID law and intentional discrimination in how congressional districts were redrawn

“The state of Texas always says it’s unchallengeable, that they’ve won, that they’ve done everything right,” Vera said. “So far, I haven’t found a federal court that agrees with the state of Texas in my 25 years of doing this.”

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said his message to Abbott is simple: “Listen to your police chiefs. Don’t sign the bill.”

McManus said police chiefs across Texas share his concerns.

“It’s disturbing that this bill is going to cause so many problems,” McManus said.

He said it won’t be a simple matter of officers saying, “Show me your papers.”

The police chief said it could take up to a year for his nearly 2,400 officers to receive in-service training in federal immigration law.

“It would take a lot of hours, a good block of hours, that are devoted to it, to make sure we cover everything we need to cover,” McManus said.

As for who would do the training, McManus said, “We’ll have to figure that out.”

McManus said law enforcement officers would be given the discretion to ask about anyone’s legal status, if they’re detained or arrested, based on three factors: “Your look, your accent and your command of the language.”

He said that amounts to racial profiling, which could lead to further legal challenges.

Vera said he agrees.

“This is aimed at Latinos, Mexican-Americans. It’s not aimed at anybody else,” Vera said.

Vera said he’s also concerned about the due process for cities and counties that don’t abide by the law, the cost of enforcing it and even the lack of jail space for undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed a crime, but only minor violations.

Supporters of the legislation have said it’s a matter of public safety and keeping criminals off the street.

“This is just hardcore, raw politics. It’s sad,” Vera said.


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About the Author

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

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