- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A federal court on Wednesday tossed out Texas’s attempt for a preemptive legal defense of the state’s new anti-sanctuary city law, shifting the battleground to yet another federal court.

Hours after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the anti-sanctuary law, SB 4, Attorney General Ken Paxton went to a court and asked for a preliminary ruling that it was constitutional. But U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin rejected that move, saying courts aren’t in the business of giving advisory opinions.

Instead, the battle over the state law will be fought out in another federal court in San Antonio, where a number of cities are battling to preserve their sanctuary policies in the face of the new law, which is slated to go into effect Sept. 1.

Mr. Paxton had tried to get the entire legal battle shifted to Judge Sparks in Austin, but the new ruling ends that effort.

“The health, safety, and welfare of Texans is not negotiable. We’re disappointed with the court’s ruling and look forward to pressing our winning arguments in the San Antonio cases and beyond (if necessary) on this undoubtedly constitutional law,” the attorney general said in a statement.

Judge Sparks was appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush, while Judge Orlando Garcia, who now becomes the key jurist, was appointed by President Clinton.

SB 4 requires local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal deportation officers, including sharing information and helping transfer deportable immigrants into federal custody.

The law is the most aggressive one in the country, and comes at a time when President Trump is forcing a national conversation about sanctuaries. He’s threatened to withhold federal funding and his top deportation official has even hinted at using existing anti-smuggling laws to charge sanctuary city leaders with criminal offenses.

Undaunted, a number of jurisdictions have moved to embrace sanctuary policies, hoping to shield illegal immigrants within their boundaries from deportation.

Though policies vary widely, they generally attempt to thwart either the reporting of illegal immigrants to federal authorities, or prohibit detaining or turning over aliens sought by deportation officers.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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