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DOJ Officially Backs Texas In Lawsuit Against New Anti-Sanctuary Cities Law

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

The federal government has officially thrown its support behind Texas' so-called sanctuary cities ban.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in federal court Friday in the case brought by several cities, including Austin, that seeks to block enforcement of Senate Bill 4.

"President Trump has made a commitment to keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "Texas has admirably followed his lead by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes."

The law, slated to take effect Sept. 1, requires jurisdictions to honor all requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain suspected undocumented immigrants and allows local law enforcement officials to question a person's immigration status during a routine stop. It punishes officials who do not cooperate with federal immigration laws.

The lawsuit, filed by the City of El Cenizo and others, argues the law violates both the Texas and U.S. constitutions. The city, on the border with Mexico, also argues the fear of deportation makes communities less safe because undocumented immigrants will not come forward to report crimes.

After the lawsuit was filed May 8, other Texas cities, including Austin, sued to block SB 4. A federal court in San Antonio consolidated the cases, and a hearing in the case will be held next Monday.  

The Justice Department argues SB 4 does not violate the Constitution and says the administration "fully supports Texas's effort."

In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it was "reassuring" to know the Trump administration backed Texas and would help defend SB 4.

"Enforcing immigration law helps prevent dangerous criminals from being released into our communities," he said. 

Prior to this lawsuit, Paxton filed a preemptive suit to ask the federal government to declare the law constitutional. 

Read the full statement of interest below:

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