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City Of Austin Asks Court To Dismiss Attorney General's 'Sanctuary City' Suit

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez
Law enforcement officers watch over a sit-in to protest Senate Bill 4, the "sanctuary cities" bill.

The City of Austin has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton, which preemptively seeks to have the state's new "sanctuary cities" law deemed constitutional.

The motion, filed Wednesday, argues the state cannot sue because Senate Bill 4 is not in effect yet, so Texas has not been harmed. 

It also disputes Texas' claims that Austin is violating SB 4, which bars cities and counties from having sanctuary policies. During deliberation of the bill, GOP lawmakers pointed to the policy of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez as an example of a sanctuary policy. Both Austin and Travis County officials rebuffed those claims, and the city's suit argues the state has failed to identify any illegal action or policy by the city since the bill was signed into law.

The Austin City Council voted last week to challenge the law in court.

In a statement this afternoon city spokesperson David Green cited concerns over the law's constitutionality as the impetus behind the suit:

The City has been consistent in expressing our concerns with SB4. As the State's lawsuit inappropriately seeks to preemptively punish the City for raising what we believe are legitimate Constitutional issues with the law, we have asked the court to dismiss the suit against the City, Mayor, City Council, and City Manager.

SB 4, which goes into effect Sept. 1, also requires local law enforcement to cooperate with warrantless detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and punishes those who do not. It also allows law enforcement officials to ask about a person's immigration status during a routine stop. Travis County's current policy allows for cooperation with warrantless detainer requests only if a suspect is accused of aggravated sexual assault, human trafficking or murder.  

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