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MALDEF Vows To Fight 'Vigilante Justice Bill' After Texas Sues Over SB 4

Krystina Martinez
Thomas Saenz is the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

The Texas Legislature is keeping the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) busy this session.

First, there’s Senate Bill 4, one of the most controversial bills to come out Austin this session. MALDEF opposes the bill, which targets so-called “sanctuary cities.” The group was named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to affirm the constitutionality of the law.

MALDEF’s also busy addressing the state’s voting maps, after a federal panel in March ruled some of the state and congressional maps were illegal. President & General Counsel Thomas Saenz talked about these issues with KERA's Rick Holter for our Friday Conversation.

Interview Highlights: Thomas Saenz…

…On why he believes SB 4 will become a ‘show your papers’ law:

“What the legislature and the Governor have done is basically empower every police officer, sheriff’s deputy, booking agent and a number of others around the state to make their own decision on whether and how to enforce immigration laws. At the same time, the bill puts serious consequences on anyone who tries to restrict individual officers from making that determination. What that means is police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, county judges have no ability to guide or restrict or control how each individual officer goes about enforcing immigration laws. I think it’s more like a vigilante justice bill, where basically anyone with a badge is a vigilante.”

…On why the Supreme Court’s ruling on North Carolina voting maps helps MALDEF’s redistricting argument in Texas:

“I think it bolsters the conclusion of the three judges recently that the 2011 congressional lines in Texas and the 2011 state House lines are unlawful. What the Supreme Court did this week is reemphasize that you cannot intentionally discriminate in drawing lines against a minority group and that includes overpopulating that particular district with that particular minority group.”

…On fighting policies favored by the Trump administration, majority-Republican Congress and Texas Legislature:    

“I think that states like Texas are going to face inevitable political change unless there’s some change in posture from the leaders of the state in 2018 and beyond.”

Thomas Saenz is the president and general counsel of MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. It was founded in San Antonio 49 years ago and is now based in Los Angeles. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.