Justice Department backs Texas 'sanctuary city' law in court

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It also directs Texas officials in most cases to cooperate with federal immigration "detainer" requests - which are essentially efforts to deport undocumented immigrants in the custody of local authorities.

Other cities that sued to block the law include Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

A US district court judge will hear arguments in the matter at a hearing Monday, at which the plaintiffs in the case will request an injunction blocking the law. "Texas has admirably followed his lead by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement accompanying the filing.

The lawyers challenging the law, which is backed by the Trump administration, urged U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia to issue a preliminary injunction to keep it from taking effect September 1 and said it is unconstitutional on numerous grounds.

On Friday, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the federal court case.

The hearing revisited the racial tension that simmered in the Texas Capitol both before and after Abbott signed the law.

"They are setting up a situation that incentivizes people to enforce immigration law to the maximum", said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the ACLU.

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The four Texas cities - all of which are among the top 15 in the nation in population - accuse the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature of passing a law that is unconstitutional, vague and would have a chilling effect on immigrant communities.

Some cities in Texas say the law, if upheld, could prompt sports organizations and others to boycott the state, similar to the effect of a controversial bathroom bill in North Carolina.

Hundreds of local jurisdictions, from county sheriffs to major cities such as NY, have adopted sanctuary policies that limit their cooperation with ICE, the agency that detains and deports immigrants.

The federal government has officially thrown its support behind Texas' so-called sanctuary cities ban.

But hundreds of cities, towns and law enforcement agencies nationwide have enacted policies to protect immigrants from deportation, particularly those detained for minor offenses. Austin Mayor Steve Adler repeated his argument that it makes cities less safe by discouraging immigrants to report crimes and serve as witnesses.

In April, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily halted that order after the city and Santa Clara County filed a lawsuit and the Trump administration acknowledged that its crackdown was far narrower than the president and his aides had indicated.

"There's a fear of being racially profiled", said Maldonado, director of League of United Latin American Citizens District 8, which covers 27 Texas counties encompassing over 100,000 citizens.