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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Blocks Extreme Texas Anti-Immigrant Law From Going Into Effect

NEW ORLEANS – The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today denied Texas’ request to allow Senate Bill 4 (88-4) to go into effect while the court considers its legality. The ruling is a major win for immigrants’ rights and will prevent the law from being enforced until the court rules whether the law is unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit will hear arguments in New Orleans on April 3 on whether to uphold the injunction.

In the court’s decision, Chief Judge Richman wrote “for nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration — the entry, admission, and removal of noncitizens — is exclusively a federal power,” among other factors. The ruling allows a lower court decision to remain in place, which blocks S.B. 4 from going into effect while the case is litigated.

The decision comes after days of legal whiplash, during which the Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect for a few hours before the Fifth Circuit ruled to temporarily block the law. Oral arguments on the stay were heard via Zoom on March 20.

Advocates have long warned that the law’s implementation would lead to racial profiling, separate families, and harm Black and Brown communities across the state. The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, and Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, American Gateways, and El Paso County, arguing that S.B. 4 violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by federal law.

Quotes from co-counsel and plaintiffs are as follows:

Cody Wofsy (he/him), Deputy Project Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said:

“S.B. 4 is cruel, harmful, and blatantly illegal under 150 years of Supreme Court precedent. We welcome today’s decision and will keep fighting to end S.B. 4 once and for all.”

David Donatti (he/him), senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said:

“We appreciate the decision to keep paused this unconstitutional and extreme anti-immigrant law from going into effect. S.B. 4 threatens our most basic civil and human rights as citizens and noncitizens alike. We will continue our efforts to prevent this hateful law from ever harming our state.”

Edna Yang (she/her), Co-Executive Director of American Gateways, said:

We are relieved that the Court has wisely blocked this hateful, anti-immigrant law from taking effect. This unconstitutional proposal should never have gotten this far, and we look forward to the courts blocking it permanently so we can get back to discussing real policy solutions.”

Jennifer Babaie (she/her), Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, said:

“We are heartened by the Fifth Circuit’s decision to keep S.B. 4 from taking effect. It is the first step towards securing accountability for the state of Texas for risking the health, safety, and standards of Texas residents. Today’s decision is not the end of this legal battle, and immigrants and Texans of color across our state should remain vigilant, know their rights, and have a plan to protect themselves and their families. We will not stop fighting until this law is struck down for good.”

Jo Anne Bernal, El Paso County Attorney, said:

“The court did the right thing in preventing the implementation of S.B. 4. We will continue seeking a court decision permanently enjoining this law that has already caused so much fear and divisiveness in our community.”

Tami Goodlette (she/her), director of the Beyond Borders Program at TCRP said:

“Today’s ruling is a major step forward in stopping S.B. 4 from wreaking havoc on the border and Texas communities. S.B. 4 threatens the very foundation of long-settled immigration law, no state has the right to overtake that authority. We will fight to ensure that this law never goes into effect because Texans, and people seeking safety at our borders, deserve better.”

Originally published at

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