How to Debate Sanctuary Cities with a Liberal: Part 3

January 20, 2018

Welcome back to our series on sanctuary cities. If you’re wondering the court status of the sanctuary city ban, you can read Part 1 here, and if you want to explore whether sanctuary cities increase or decrease crime, you can read Part 2 here.

In this series, we’re first taking a look at the pro-sanctuary city stance, and then we’re showing how to give a reasonable argument against sanctuary cities. We’ve searched for the other side’s best arguments so that you can get ready to respond to them!

Here’s a pro-sanctuary city argument you’re likely to hear: the ban on sanctuary cities—Senate Bill 4—will violate the U.S. Constitution. In fact, that’s what the judges of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals are discussing right now. U.S. District Court Judge Garcia had ruled the ban was unconstitutional and kept it from going into full effect. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the ruling though, so now it’s up to the Court of Appeals. Instead of just waiting for the Court to figure out whether the law is constitutional, let’s look at the case for ourselves.

Senate Bill 4 (SB4) states that sheriffs, police departments, county attorneys, etc., “may not…adopt, enforce, or endorse a policy under which the entity or department prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws…” or else they can face heavy fines and job loss. To Garcia, the problem word is “endorse” (see pages 33-48 of his decision). Garcia claims it’s a violation of the First Amendment because if a person cannot endorse a different policy without threat of punishment, free speech goes out the window.

As an example, Garcia quotes a conversation that happened on the senate floor as the bill was debated. The bill’s author was asked what would happen if a police chief submitted an editorial to a newspaper that promoted sanctuary cities—could doing something like that get him fired? The author responded it could, because “it’s effectively creating a culture of contempt and non-compliance.” Garcia concluded that if someone can lose their job for endorsing a certain view, that is viewpoint discrimination, and thus unconstitutional.

In the appeal, Paxton and others refute Garcia’s claim (see page 34-36 of the appeal). The bill’s definition of “endorse” is not the dictionary definition “express support or approval.”  Instead, the bill uses the dictionary definition meaning “to give official imprimatur to conduct.” In the context of the bill, “endorse” does not apply to private-capacity speech; it applies to law-enforcement action. For instance, a sheriff could sanction (aka “endorse”) a deputy’s suggestion not to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. That is what SB4 is trying to prevent—it is not attempting to limit free speech.

Additionally, in their official capacity, government employees do not have the same free-speech protections as they do in their private lives, as case precedent makes clear. While “on the clock,” their speech might need to be more restricted because their words can have the power of authorization or sanction, versus merely expression. SB4 does not govern local officials’ private actions outside of work though, so they can still voice their opinions.

Garcia points out another way he thinks SB4 is unconstitutional: he thinks it can violate the Fourth Amendment as illegal search and seizure and that it goes against the Supremacy Clause. We’ll respond to those claims next week, so don’t forget to check your inbox. Please add us to your mailbox so that you don’t miss out!

In Service,

Gary Gates
President and Founder
Texas Citizens Coalition

Gary Gates started the non-profit Texas Citizens Coalition because he has a passion for individual liberty and preserving the Constitution, and it’s a fight he’s engaged in with every facet of his life. He believes a coalition is needed because it takes all of us being actively involved to move our state and country forward. We as citizens must stay informed because We the People are in charge and must hold government accountable. Gary desires to provide Texas citizens a free resource to get useful information about state government from a conservative perspective.

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