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City of SA to sue Texas over sanctuary cities ban

Lawsuit would be first by city against Texas in 300 years, Krier says

SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio plans to take the state of Texas to court by filing a lawsuit Thursday that aims to block the sanctuary cities ban from becoming law, District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana said.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund will file the lawsuit on behalf of the city by the end of the day and will also litigate, Saldana said.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed Texas Senate Bill 4 into law last month. The law, which would go into effect Sept. 1, would allow local police to question a potential suspect about their legal status in this country.

Related: Gov. Abbott signs bill banning sanctuary cities

Saldana said the bill is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

"But the question for us is if it is a bad law today, it's going to be a bad law tomorrow," Saldana said to KSAT 12 News. "And if the right decision is to file a lawsuit to stop this law, we need to do it as quickly as possible."

Saldana said he hopes other Texas cities plan to join the lawsuit.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg agrees that the city should take legal action.

"I've said from the beginning I agree with local law enforcement that SB4 is bad legislation," he said in a statement. "I don't think the state government should punish local law enforcement for the federal government's failure to do its job. 

"Much like the state's attempted pre-emptive lawsuit against the City of Austin on SB4, I hope this will bring a fast and final resolution on the constitutionality of the law so our local law enforcement can move forward with the job of protecting the people of San Antonio."

RELATED: City officials split over controversial sanctuary cities ban lawsuit

But Mayor Ivy Taylor and District 9 Councilman Joe Krier said they aren't in favor of the lawsuit.

"I believe it was premature for the majority of City Council to give direction for city staff to join in a lawsuit against the SB4 legislation," Taylor said in a statement. "In this case, the prudent course would be to wait until a decision has been made on whether a special session will be called.

"Additionally, I believe that any decision to join this lawsuit should be made in coordination with other major Texas cities, which is why I have consulted with Mayors Adler (Austin), Turner (Houston) and Rawlings (Dallas). We should be certain that litigation is the measure of last resort and that the city is bearing its fair share of any legal burden. None of these conditions have been satisfied, which is why I continue to oppose City Council's decision to join this lawsuit."

Related: McManus says 'nothing positive' about sanctuary cities ban law

Krier, who is leaving office, questioned why the lawsuit is not going before the council for a vote.

"I think it is a mistake for the city to file this lawsuit, particularly without the vote of the city council in public."

Saldana said a vote isn't necessary because the city charter allows the council to issue a directive regarding legal actions.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus testified before state lawmakers that the ban could lead to racial profiling and will fan distrust of the police by many Hispanics.

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