SAN ANTONIO -- A Texas judge has dismissed substantial parts of the attorney general's first "sanctuary cities" lawsuit that alleges the San Antonio police chief obstructed enforcement of immigration law.
Attorney General Ken Paxton's lawsuit accuses Police Chief William McManus of releasing 12 immigrants suspected of entering the U.S. illegally. It was a rare enforcement of Texas' 2017 Senate Bill 4, which penalizes local officials who restrict federal immigration enforcement. It's considered one of the toughest state laws targeting illegal immigration.
State District Judge Tim Sulak rejected three claims in the suit on July 2, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Sulak concluded pertinent portions of the bill weren't enforceable at the time because of a provisional block by federal courts.
"It's a strong development for us," said Andy Segovia, San Antonio's city attorney. "It doesn't resolve it completely, but it's good momentum."
Paxton's office can't appeal Sulak's dismissal until the case has been resolved.
"We respectfully disagree with the trial court's ruling," said Marc Rylander, Paxton's communications director. "A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit dissolved all aspects of the injunction against Senate Bill 4 applicable in this case. None of the parties dispute that point. Because the federal trial court's injunction was overturned, it cannot prohibit the state of Texas from enforcing Senate Bill 4 during the period it was wrongly enjoined."
Two of the rejected claims alleged that McManus "materially limited" the enforcement of immigration laws in addition to preventing his officers from doing the same. The third contended San Antonio had a policy of hindering the laws through its general police manual.
The remaining issue is whether the city has a general policy against cooperating with federal authorities regarding immigration laws. City officials deny that allegation.
In his suit, Paxton said McManus "skirted" procedure by disregarding Homeland Security's requests to probe the incident under federal immigration statutes.
At the time, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were at the scene and "had every opportunity to do their job and it didn't get done," McManus said. The agency denied that claim, saying they offered their help and police declined.
"The court's ruling addressed only a portion of the state's case, and we intend to continue to pursue all legal avenues to enforce Senate Bill 4 to its fullest extent," Rylander said.
The newspaper reached out to McManus, but he deferred their questions to Segovia.
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com