Fort Worth

Fort Worth panel wants City Council to join ‘sanctuary cities’ lawsuit

The crowd passes the Fort Worth Convention Center during a “Day of Action” to protest SB4 in early August.
The crowd passes the Fort Worth Convention Center during a “Day of Action” to protest SB4 in early August.

City leaders should reconsider joining a lawsuit against a bill targeting “sanctuary cities,” the city’s Human Relations Commission said Monday.

Commission members debated for nearly two hours on the wording of the recommendation they will send to the City Council, in the end saying it was their duty to ask the council to “reconsider its position on joining other major Texas cities” that are already parties to the lawsuit.

“Implementation of SB4 disproportionately impacts Hispanic/Latino residents and targets them for extra scrutiny simply because of how they look or how they speak,” the recommendation says. “Compliance with SB4 — as written — by local law enforcement can place a burden on our police department, erode public trust and makes communities less safe.”

Mindia Whittier with United Fort Worth, a grassroots group that urged the council to support fighting Senate Bill 4, applauded the commission’s actions, calling the panel “a body of leaders that believes everybody in this city deserves to be treated equally and fairly.”

“They’re willing to step forward and take action to make sure that happens,” Whittier said. “There was a lot of discussion tonight about whether or not in the course of the [council] vote voices were heard. There’s a really big difference in hearing, and this statement of recommendation ... is someone stepping forward and saying, ‘We’re not just going to do our due diligence of listening; we’re really going to hear what the majority of citizens are telling us — that this is a bad law and it will hurt our people.’ 

A month ago, the City Council voted 5-4 not to join the lawsuit, which was initiated in June by Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo. Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston have joined the suit. Like Fort Worth, Arlington has chosen not to join the suit.

Earlier this month, commission members agreed they wanted to tell the council that they were displeased about the vote. They called the Monday meeting to write their recommendation, and they chose their words carefully.

The commission also considered whether it was too late to send a recommendation. “They can shoot us down. At least we spoke,” said commission member John Luft.

Councilman Carlos Flores, who pushed for the council vote, said Monday he doesn’t think a second vote would have a different outcome.

“I’m glad they had the discussion amongst themselves,” Flores said.

The law went in to effect Sept. 1. The federal district judge hearing the suit has, however, temporarily halted some provisions of SB4, including the part that required county jails to honor all detainer requests from federal immigration officials.

The part of the law that allows police officers to question the immigration status of people they detain and share that information was not temporarily halted.

This article contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram