How to Debate Sanctuary Cities with a Liberal: Part 4

February 9, 2018

Even though we’re still waiting for the court to finally rule on whether the law against sanctuary cities can go into full effect, it’s time to start wrapping up our series on sanctuary cities. (If you missed out on parts 1-3 of the series, please check them out to get up to speed!)

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently ruling on whether the law against sanctuary cities—SB4—is unconstitutional. Judge Garcia, who blocked the law from going into full effect, deemed it unconstitutional, and Ken Paxton and others appealed his ruling.

Why does Judge Garcia call SB4 unconstitutional? One of the reasons he gives is that it violates the Fourth Amendment. We’ll cover his main points so that we can give arguments in response. That way, you’ll have your arsenal filled with reasoned arguments the next time you need to defend banning sanctuary cities!

First off, in case you don’t have your Constitution handy (hopefully it’s in your pocket though!), here’s what the Fourth Amendment says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, [unless there’s] probable cause…”

If local police have someone in custody who ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) suspects is an illegal immigrant, ICE can instruct police to detain the person for an extra 48 hours. Garcia loads his argument “gun” with the following point: compelling local police officers to obey ICE detainer requests without probable cause breaks the Fourth Amendment. It can become “unreasonable search and seizure” if the person is actually a U.S. citizen, and police can become liable for not having probable cause to detain the person.

That happened with a man named Ricardo Garza: Dallas police held him for a month because he was suspected of being an illegal immigrant, but they later found out he was a citizen. The police are now being sued for taking away his rights!

How would you reply to that argument? Can you prove to Garcia that SB4 is constitutional? We’ll help you out with your reply by sharing what Ken Paxton and others argued in their appeal.

They replied that there is probable cause: it comes from ICE. When ICE instructs a local officer to detain a suspected illegal immigrant, ICE must expressly communicate probable cause on the detainer-request form.

Nonetheless, Garcia fires his argument gun again and insists that even if ICE informs local officers that there’s probable cause, the Fourth Amendment requires particularized inquiry into probable cause. That means the arresting officers must see the facts of probable cause, assessing for themselves if the person should be detained. Garcia claims that SB4 “prohibits local officials from undertaking any particularized assessment of suspect criminality” and “mandates that they effect a seizure simply because it was requested by ICE.”

Garcia shoots…he aims…he fires. But he misses. As Ken Paxton’s appeal points out, SB4 does not take away the particularized inquiry into probable cause—that requirement is fulfilled by the appropriate federal officials who have made the inquiry. Local police can particularly see the facts for themselves: they know the relevant fact that a federal agent has found probable cause.

You see, there’s this thing known as “collective-knowledge doctrine,” and it means that even if an officer does not have firsthand knowledge of the facts, he can rely on the knowledge of other law enforcement agents who do have all the necessary facts. That’s exactly what happens when ICE sends a detainment-request: local police are communicating with an ICE-officer who has knowledge of probable cause.

Beyond that, Garcia is wrong that SB4 “prohibits local officials from undertaking any particularized assessment…” Officers can indeed do their own assessment: if a person has proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status, then the police can essentially ignore ICE’s detainer request and let the person go.

Garcia has another argument bullet in his gun, though: he claims local police don’t have the authority to arrest and detain for civil immigration violations; local police can only detain without warrant if they’re preventing a criminal offense. It’s ICE, not a local officer, that is authorized to arrest and detain those whom they have probable cause to believe are illegal immigrants.

Garcia “shot,” but missed the bulls-eye of truth. His claim is unfounded. As Paxton’s appeal shows, police can seize persons based on civil infractions; detentions do not require a crime. The Fourth and Eighth Circuits have ruled that detentions for civil immigration violations are okay, if they’ve been directed by federal agents.

Alright, I know that was a lot, but thanks for sticking with us to learn the facts. Having now seen points on both sides, how would you rule if you were a judge on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals? It seems time for them to rule that the ban on sanctuary cities is constitutional!

In Service for God, you, your family, and Texas,

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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