SAN ANTONIO, TX — MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) moved to amend its lawsuit challenging Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) to expand the legal claims and add new parties, according to papers filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
The motion to amend asks the court to allow MALDEF to include challenges to the way that SB4 has been applied since its effective date. The new complaint asserts that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a defendant in the SB4 lawsuit, violated the U.S. Constitution when he sued the City of San Antonio under SB4, and also that local police officers in North Texas violated the U.S. Constitution when they made an immigration arrest of a married couple who answered an ad for a free TV on Craigslist.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017 after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called “Sanctuary Cities” law, alleges that SB 4 violates the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well other constitutional and statutory provisions.
“Although the Fifth Circuit narrowed the dangers of SB 4 by reinterpreting the text of the law, there remain serious potential harms from the enforcement of this anti-immigrant state measure,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “MALDEF is committed to continuing the court battle against the notorious and unlawful Texas state law.”
The amended complaint features new claims on behalf of the cities of San Antonio and El Paso, as well as Bexar County, individuals, and community-based organizations whose members are affected by SB4.
“Although Texas officials previously claimed that SB4 was narrow in scope, we now know that Ken Paxton intends to apply SB4 in an unconstitutional manner, including forcing local jurisdictions to make immigration arrests,” stated Nina Perales, MALDEF vice president of litigation. “Cities and counties cannot and should not be compelled to step into the shoes of federal immigration agents.”
Friday’s motion comes nearly two years after MALDEF sued Texas and state officials claiming that SB 4 could result in racial profiling and violate Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The lawsuit also challenges Texas’ attempt to force cities, counties and elected officials to carry out federal immigration enforcement or be subject to steep fines and criminal prosecution.
In March 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that “with one exception, SB4’s provisions do not, on their face, violate the Constitution” and allowed the law to go into effect. The exception, which was struck down for violating the First Amendment, was the law’s “endorsement provision,” which called for penalties including fines, imprisonment and removal from office of elected officials who “endorse” policies that limit immigration enforcement. The Fifth Circuit invited the challengers of SB4 to bring further claims based on SB4’s enforcement, and MALDEF’s amended complaint brings those claims.