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Federal judge in SA considers fate of Texas 'sanctuary cities' law

SB 4 allows police to ask people about immigration status during routine stops

SAN ANTONIO – A federal judge in San Antonio is considering whether a new Texas "sanctuary cities" crackdown backed by the Trump administration can take effect.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia on Monday appeared interested in how the law signed by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and scheduled to take effect in September would be enforced.

Related: Hundreds march through downtown SA in opposition to sanctuary cities law

The measure lets police ask people about immigration status during routine stops.

Garcia asked whether an officer could ask all passengers in a car about their immigration status and if local police could make their own immigration sweeps.

Related: Federal government supports Texas in SB 4 lawsuit

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is against SB4, was among those who testified in the hearing.

When Wolff was asked by an attorney for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton about his job title, Wolff responded that he may be a former county judge if the law goes through due to his opposition to the law. Wolff also told the lawyer that he wouldn't have a problem with being removed from office if the law passes as long as Gov. Greg Abbott would also lose his job for signing what Wolff called an unconstitutional law.

Opponents of the law, including the cities of Houston and Dallas, argued that the law's vagueness is one of their biggest concerns.

The small border city of El Cenizo, outside Laredo, was the first city to file the lawsuit.

"It's a little bit nerve-wracking because we just don't know what to expect," El Cenizo Mayor Raul Reyes said. "I, for one, can tell you all the plaintiffs will be there in a show of support."

Related: McManus: 'Nothing positive' about sanctuary cities ban law

Luis Vera, a lawyer for the League of United Latin American Citizens, which is one of the plaintiffs, said LULAC will have to prove that the law would cause irreparable harm if it goes into effect, that the state wouldn't be harmed by keeping the status quo and that the lawsuit has a likelihood of success.

"Texas has created a law regarding enforcement of immigration law without a congressional mandate. They've done this on their own, and that's unconstitutional," Vera said prior to the hearing.

The Justice Department is helping Texas defend the law.

Related: Gov. Abbott signs sanctuary cities bill into law

While the goal of opponents to Texas Senate Bill 4 is to ultimately have it ruled unconstitutional, the hearing will be about having Garcia issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent the bill from going into effect while the court considers the lawsuit.

"We are united in trying to seek a preliminary injunction against a law that would divide our community, divide communities throughout the state of Texas, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a rally prior to the hearing."

Garcia is unlikely to rule immediately.