Fifth Circuit lets most of SB4 remain in place


A panel of three U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled Tuesday that most of the state’s immigration enforcement legislation, Senate Bill 4, can remain in effect while the case plays out, handing a victory to Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican supporters of the legislation.

As passed, Senate Bill 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and punishes local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation — in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.

The one part of SB 4 that is still on hold is a provision that punishes local officials from “adopting, enforcing or endorsing” policies that specifically prohibit or limit enforcement of immigration laws. The judges kept that injunction in place, but said it only applies to the word “endorse.” The bill, as passed and signed, would have made elected and appointed officials subject to a fine, jail time and possible removal from office for violating all or parts of the legislation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which represents some of the plaintiffs in the SB 4 case, said it was considering how to move forward.

“The court made clear that we remain free to challenge the manner in which the law is implemented, so we will be monitoring the situation on the ground closely,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

See here, here, and here for the background. This one is destined for the Supreme Court, but in the meantime it can’t hurt to ask for an en banc review, as this wasn’t the friendliest three judge panel. This is still the injunction phase, not the trial on the merits, so no matter what there’s still a long road ahead. A copy of the ruling is here, and Texas Monthly has more.

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5 Responses to Fifth Circuit lets most of SB4 remain in place

  1. Mark Kerrissey says:

    Ugh indeed.
    Question: Does this ruling mean law officials can start asking show me your papers today?

  2. Mainstream says:

    This panel of the court is one of the most conservative ever possible by random assignment of judges. All were appointees of Republican presidents. Judges Jones and Smith are fixtures in the local Federalist Society and have strong connections to Republican activists. Judge Prado, by reports, has been nominated by President Trump to be Ambassador to Argentina.

  3. Bill Daniels says:


    If you are detained or arrested (like a traffic stop), the cop is ALREADY asking for your ‘papers.’ This isn’t some new dystopian future you’re experiencing. Once it’s established that you have no valid driver’s license, then it’s reasonable to start asking why not.

    Driving without a license is serious….people go to jail for driving without a license. Of course, if you do have a license but lost it, or forgot your billfold that morning, the cop can still ID you with the info you give him….name, address, maybe DL # if you know it (I know mine). You won’t get jailed if you satisfy the cop that you are who you say you are. I’m assuming cops can pull up your DL photo when they run your info on the computer, so if you look vaguely like your DL photo, you should be good to go.

  4. Ross says:

    @Bill, the “show me your papers” thing is not about people driving vehicles, it’s about asking random people who might have witnessed a crime, or people on the street, to identify themselves. There is no requirement under Texas law to identify yourself unless you are arrested, or are operating a motor vehicle, or are carrying a handgun. I personally refuse to show my drivers license unless I am operating a vehicle. The police do not need to know who I am, otherwise. I also refuse to say where I am coming from or where I am going when stopped in a vehicle, although that hasn’t happened for a long time.

  5. Bill Daniels says:


    From the article:

    “As passed, Senate Bill 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest….”

    From your post:

    “…. it’s about asking random people who might have witnessed a crime, or people on the street, to identify themselves.”

    From Inigo Montoya:

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Random people who might have witnessed a crime or people on the street aren’t detained or arrested. Detained or arrested means the cop has probable cause that you have committed a crime, and you are not free to leave. Are you a random guy on the street? A cop can approach you and try to talk to you, but you’re free to walk away, because you aren’t detained or arrested. Same thing if you are a witness to a crime. You aren’t detained or arrested.

    This is a common misconception by people who don’t understand the difference between illegal alien and legal immigrant.

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