Texas is suing the city of San Antonio for an alleged violation of the state’s new anti-“sanctuary cities” law, in what appears to be the first legal challenge under the controversial statute.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Travis County District Court, centers on a December 2017 incident when San Antonio police discovered a trailer carrying 12 individuals from Guatemala who were suspected of being undocumented. The city’s police department charged the driver, but released the migrants without involving federal immigration authorities, as the new law requires, according to the state’s lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that San Antonio Police Chief William McManus “personally called an immigration attorney from an advocacy organization” and released the individuals without running background checks.
The police department could not immediately offer a comment on the lawsuit. But department policy is to run a background check only on people officers are “issuing a citation to, legally detaining, arresting or processing into jail.”
“Unfortunately, some municipalities, such as San Antonio, put the safety of police officers and the public at risk by defying state law,” Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a news release.
Paxton’s office has asked the court to issue an injunction requiring the city to comply with the new law, as well as assess civil penalties against the city, police department and McManus. The mayor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Senate Bill 4, known as an anti-“sanctuary cities” law, allows law enforcement to ask for the immigration status of people they detain or arrest. After Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in May 2017, several Texas cities — including San Antonio, Houston and El Paso County — sued to stop the law. A federal appeals court upheld the majority of the law in a March 2018 ruling.