Texas Sanctuary City Ban Puts San Antonio in Crosshairs

(Bloomberg) -- Texas is making its first effort to enforce a state law banning sanctuary cities by going after San Antonio’s police chief for allegedly releasing a dozen suspected undocumented immigrants instead of turning them over to federal authorities.

The Texas law, the first of its kind in the U.S., requires cities, law enforcement personnel and elected officials to cooperate with the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration or face harsh penalties for resisting. The measure was largely upheld this year by a federal appeals court.

The state seeks a court order forcing San Antonio and its officials to hold any suspected undocumented immigrants in local custody until federal agents can collect them for possible deportation, if the U.S. has issued a detention request on those individuals.

The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, a Republican, is asking for the maximum fine against the city of San Antonio, its police department and Chief William McManus. Calculated at $25,500 a day since Sept. 1, 2017, when the state ban went into effect, Texas seeks more than $11.57 million from the defendants.

McManus released a dozen individuals captured in a human-smuggling incident last December to charitable groups that provide services to undocumented immigrants, rather than to federal immigration agents. There are conflicting accounts about whether the federal agents at the scene requested custody of the immigrants.

Texas’s suit, filed Friday in state court in Austin, comes the same day a federal judge in New York rejected a Trump administration policy that sought to coerce state and municipal cooperation with federal immigration enforcement by tying federal public safety grants to compliance. Several other judges across the country also have blocked Trump’s plan to defund sanctuary cities.

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