AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday filed a lawsuit against the city of San Antonio, the San Antonio Police Department, Police Chief William McManus and City Manager Sheryl Sculley for violating the so-called sanctuary cities law.
The lawsuit asks a Travis County district court to issue an injunction requiring McManus and the city to comply with Senate Bill 4, prohibit the Police Department from thwarting federal immigration enforcement and assess civil penalties against the city, the Police Department and McManus.
At issue is an incident in December 2017, when police found 12 suspected illegal immigrants who appeared to be part of a human smuggling operation, in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio.
McManus is accused of refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, who were alerted about the discovery of the immigrants by an officer with the San Antonio Police Department, and instead ordered the immigrants released from custody, which Paxton said is in violation of Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law in the 2016 Texas Legislature.
The lawsuit accuses McManus of avoiding normal Police Department protocol by arranging for immigration attorneys from an activist group to provide the immigrants with legal advice and act as a translator. McManus called a private company to take the immigrants away from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the lawsuit said. McManus and his officers never checked the criminal history of the suspected immigrants, nor did they contact Child Protective Services to investigate the safety of a minor who was in the group, the lawsuit said.
"Senate Bill 4 guarantees cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement to protect Texans," Paxton said in a news release. "Unfortunately, some municipalities, such as San Antonio, put the safety of police officers and the public at risk by defying state law. The court should grant our request for injunctions and civil penalties against San Antonio to send a message that all Texas cities must obey the law."
Senate Bill 4 prohibits sanctuary cities in Texas and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit earlier this year upheld virtually all of the law.
Michael Helle, the president of the San Antonio Police Officer's Association, said Friday that McManus should be placed on administrative leave immediately pending the outcome of the case.
San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia released the following statement in regard to the lawsuit:
"While we need time to review the complaint, we are fully confident that neither the city nor Chief McManus violated the applicable provisions of SB 4. The attorney general's characterizations of what happened that day are clearly aimed at furthering a political agenda. The city has a long history of cooperating with federal authorities and we will continue to do so. The city's process for handling human smuggling/trafficking incidents was created in coordination with the feds, and the feds have not taken issue with our handling of immigration issues."
You can read a copy of the lawsuit below: