Houston City Council to join lawsuits against SB4, challenging sanctuary cities law

HOUSTON -- The Houston City Council has voted to join in the lawsuits against SB4, challenging the sanctuary cities law.  The 10-6 vote was made at a council session Wednesday morning.

“When you’re dealing with an issue like this that we can’t solve around the council table, the best way to do it is to utilize our democratic process. Put it in the court of law and let the courts decide, is it constitutional or is it not? That’s where it should be resolved," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

Turner wants the policies in Houston to be enforced properly.

“We have 5,200 police officers, they are under the command of Chief Acevedo. And if Chief Acevedo tells them what to do, I expect for them to follow the instructions. I have a problem if anyone outside of that says to those 5,200 officers, ‘you can go left, when Chief Acevedo is telling you to go right.’ I just have a problem with that,” Turner said.  “We are not going to be ICE and we’re not going to act like ICE.  I think I have that right. If there’s any bill that says I could be removed because I make that pronouncement, I’m concerned with that.”

In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that would ban sanctuary cities in Texas.

The bill, which Abbott signed on Facebook Live, establishes criminal and civil penalties for local government entities and law enforcement that don't comply with immigration laws and detention requests, the governor's office said.

The new measure would fine government entities up to $25,500 for each day the law is violated.

Read: Texas governor signs bill banning sanctuary cities 

It would also result in a misdemeanor charge for sheriffs, police chiefs and constables who fail to comply with detention requests and in removal from office for elected and appointed officials, Abbott's office said.

"As Governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets," Abbott said in a press release. "It's inexcusable to release individuals from jail that have been charged with heinous crimes like sexual assault against minors, domestic violence and robbery."

The measure goes into effect on September 1, according to the governor's office.

Gov. Abbott also told viewers the key policies on the Texas bill had already been tested and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Sanctuary city" is a broad term applied to jurisdictions with policies in place to limit cooperation or involvement with federal immigration actions. Many US cities, counties and some states have a myriad of informal policies and laws that qualify as "sanctuary" positions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said the bill -- which is called the 'show me your papers measure' -- "encourages racial profiling by untrained immigration agents" and it "removes democratically elected representatives from office should they fail to comply."

Federal order to strip sanctuary city funding on hold

The Texas law is the first one of its kind to be signed since President Donald Trump signed an executive order intended to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities in January.

Trump's order said it would "strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants," press secretary Sean Spicer said.

The order declared that entities labeled "sanctuary jurisdictions" by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security will be "not eligible" for federal grants. The order also directed the Office of Management and Budget to compile a list of federal grant money currently being doled out to sanctuary jurisdictions.

In March, US. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to cut federal funds from the so-called sanctuary cities and states that will not comply with immigration laws.

At the time, Abbott applauded Sessions' actions.

"After years of the previous administration turning a blind eye to this issue, the federal government is sending a clear and necessary message that the laws of this land are going to be enforced," the governor said then.

Late last month, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its threat to take away funds from sanctuary cities.

Judge William H. Orrick, in his ruling, sided with jurisdictions such as Santa Clara County in California and the city of San Francisco, who argued that a threat to take away federal funds from cities that do not cooperate with some federal immigration enforcement could be unconstitutional.

In making the ruling apply nationwide, Orrick blocked the government from enforcing a key part of Trump's executive order on immigration, which ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department to block cities that don't cooperate with federal immigration enforcement from receiving federal funds.