Last week, the County of El Paso voted to sue the State of Texas over SB4, the so-called sanctuary cities legislation, recently enacted by Texas. The Texas bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor if any local law enforcement agent does not cooperate with federal agents in detaining undocumented immigrants for federal prosecution. The Texas law also authorizes all law enforcement officers to ask for immigration status during their interactions with individuals, whether as victims or as suspects. Shortly after Greg Abbot, the Texas governor, signed the legislation into law, the City of Austin filed suit against Texas arguing provisions of the legislation are unconstitutional. On a vote of 4 to 1, the County Commissioners of El Paso also voted to file suit last week. Except that the El Paso lawsuit is not about protecting undocumented immigrants but rather about money. Here is why.

Austin is well known as a sanctuary city. It has been labelled as such by the federal government and Greg Abbot. Austin’s lawsuit against Texas is to protect undocumented immigrants from abusive enforcement. This is not true for the El Paso County lawsuit. El Paso has continuously argued that it is not a sanctuary city and much to the surprise of the nation and the rest of Texas, El Paso is recognized as not being a sanctuary city.

So, why the lawsuit?

Did Veronica Escobar finally convince her fellow elected officials to make El Paso a haven for undocumented immigrants?

The only commissioner to vote against El Paso County suing the state over SB4 was Andrew Haggerty. Haggerty argued that suing the County over the legislation is money badly spent because the legislation does not affect El Paso. As El Paso is not recognized as a sanctuary city, Haggerty makes a valid argument.

So, why the lawsuit?

The public notion is that the lawsuit is for protecting residents against racism and discrimination within the predominantly Hispanic community of El Paso. The argument being that the law, that goes into effect on September 1, gives local law enforcement officers unprecedented authority to use the law to discriminate against their fellow residents in El Paso. This notion ignores the fact that local law enforcement is predominantly Hispanic, mirroring the community they serve.

Veronica Escobar told KVIA that she is concerned about the possibility of spending money in the future to defend against a civil rights lawsuit, should a County employee be sued for enforcing the Texas law. Escobar argues that it is prudent to spend $150,000 in legal fees now, rather than wait to be sued in the future.

It all sounds very reasonable until you look at the most basic fact.

Escobar argues that she wants to save the taxpayers from unnecessary legal fees in the future due to untrained local law enforcement officials complying with SB4.

However, this ignores the fact that the County, like most government entities, enjoys the protection of sovereign immunity. It is difficult to sue a government entity for complying with the law. Escobar and cohorts are likely to argue this point, so, let us look at other Texas cities suing because of SB4. After all, other Texas cities, especially on the border, would have similar concerns. Austin and Dallas are suing Texas. Houston is also planning to sue. All three have the sanctuary city label in common. Austin, Dallas and Houston are known as sanctuary cities. El Paso is not.

So why is El Paso also suing?

It comes down to managing public perception for political points. If, in fact, El Paso is suing to protect itself against possible litigation, then why not join the lawsuits of Austin, Dallas and Houston? After all, it would be cheaper to join a lawsuit then to litigate a new one. That makes sense if the issue is about protecting the taxpayer. But it is not.

The reason that Veronica Escobar is pushing for the County of El Paso to sue on its own behalf is because Escobar is playing a delicate balancing act between creating the illusion that she is supportive of immigrants’ rights, while making sure that the County of El Paso does not lose the money it severely depends on to stay afloat – federal dollars. Escobar wants her constituents to believe that she is pro-immigrants and protective of her disfranchised community while keeping federal dollars coming in.

Had Escobar joined the Austin, Dallas or Houston lawsuits she would accomplish the same outcome and save money but she would run the risk of exposing her hypocrisy when Abbot and the Trump administration threatens to take federal dollars away from the County because El Paso is a sanctuary city.

That, right there is the answer, it all comes down to money.

Tomorrow, I’ll prove to you why El Paso is not a sanctuary city, even though there is a notion that it is a defacto sanctuary city.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

9 replies on “The SB4 El Paso Lawsuit Lie”

  1. Vero wants to protect the taxpayers from frivolous lawsuits. That is what’s behind the lawsuit and not your gibberish.

  2. A few other things not mentioned. SB4 has fairly harsh punishment for law enforcement that does discriminate. It also has a provision that protects municipalities against lawsuits. At the same time that the city and county are wasting money on lawsuits, they’re complaining to taxpayers that they don’t have enough money to hire enough police officers, buy new equipment, or take care of police and fire pension funds. This is nothing but a blatant attempt to get their names in media for political purposes and is a disgrace to our city. They’re basically saying that the enforce ONLY the laws they feel are important.

  3. Nothing like paid political advertisement at taxpayers expense. Another of her impaired decisions that wastes our money.

    We still haven’t forgotten the El Paso whore tour for Playboy magazine (November 2009) nor your “guvmint cheese” comment about El Paosans. That really helped the city’s image.

    When are we going to elect legislators represent El Paso not Juarez?

  4. What everyone fails to mention here is Contract Law 101…A Bargain was struck and not between 2 private parties ie one is public, thus there is Third Party Beneficiaries to the Contract. The Contract is staked and its value keeps rising as the discussion progresses. If the contract is or was ever broken, then the Beneficiaries are aggrieved and would demand “compensation” for its loss.

    It is very true, no one owns a issue. Not BNHR or the ACLU.

    No one is walking around handing out Rights.

    When is the last time you ever saw that? So to quote U.S. v Johnson “Rights [do] belong ONLY to the Belligerent Claimant”

    The County is in what could be considered the legal choice of a “Hobson’s Choice” and a the issue is: “The Policy [change] predates SB 4” SB 4 is about the policy maker, going to Jail or paying $25,000 a day for having a policy THAT PROHIBITS ENFORCING IMMIGRATION LAW as the Contract demands.

  5. Carl, the sheriff stated he is and has been cooperating with the Feds. El Paso is not a sanctuary city anyway. There was a city resolution passed that’s all.

    We can’t have it both ways. What responsibility does a non fed law enforcement agency have when they discover a violation of fed law but not covered by local law?

  6. Again SB 4 is about a policy that prohibits enforcement of civil immigration law. Enforcement can occur in the field or at a jail.

    For almost half the Nation the issue is honoring ICE Detainers at the jails and not so much about status when in the field.

    So some may feel Wiles has it backwards, ie that he should not be honoring detainers but instead demand a judicial warrant.

  7. Carl
    Some here are trying to pull a fast one El Paso is a sanctuary City and the County also if they arrest a foreign national they do not ask their nationality or immigration status unless the federal government gets a warrant from a court which that is what a ICE detainer is they do not to hold a illegal foreign national other wise for immigration violations.
    So the claim from Jaime is Vero is trying to stop frivolous lawsuits simply bull shit the City and the County wouldn’t have to worry about law suits from the state if they were complying with the laws of the state and the federal government. This is about the City and County losing money, being fined and some of the leadership for refusing to enforce the law going to jail.
    In addition Vero is trying to endear herself to some interest In El Paso when election time comes to be able to say look I fought for you. I believe odds are good Vero is going to be handed her hat and sent packing her next election cycle and she knows it.

  8. Carl, I understand sb4. But what if a local cop sees a federal violation but it isn’t prohibited by local law what is he suppose to do ? Ignore or contact the Feds?

    Isn’t that similar to states legalizing the sale of marijuana? The states says it ok, the Feds say no and shut down stores.

  9. “But what if a local cop sees a federal violation but it isn’t prohibited by local law what is he suppose to do ?”

    I guess arrest on any state counterpart….since many state and federal laws overlap.

    Of course Federalism and State Rights issues may or are be boiling in the background.

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