AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on March 13 praised a ruling by a panel of the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upholding a new state law that bans sanctuary cities.

The Legislature enacted Senate Bill 4 in 2017 to set a statewide policy of cooperation with federal immigration authorities’ enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

“I’m pleased the 5th Circuit recognized that Senate Bill 4 is lawful, constitutional and protects the safety of law enforcement officers and all Texans,” Paxton said. “Enforcing immigration law prevents the release of individuals from custody who have been charged with serious crimes. Dangerous criminals shouldn’t be allowed back into our communities to possibly commit more crimes.” 

The ruling also drew reactions from several lawmakers, including state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who serves as chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

“SB 4 will continue to jeopardize the safety of Texas communities by forcing our local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws instead of keeping families safe. From day one, this law was racially motivated for political gain against the will of local law enforcement and to the detriment of thousands of immigrants who work, live and call Texas home,” Anchia said. “The decision today doesn’t mean that SB 4 won’t lead to abuse of power against Latinos and immigrants. In fact, it likely means citizens’ civil rights will be violated before we can stop this unjust law in the courts.”

A U.S. District Court in San Antonio granted a preliminary injunction of SB 4 on Aug. 30, two days before the law was scheduled to take effect. On Sept. 25, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled that Texas could enforce key provisions of SB 4 while it appealed the lower court ruling. On Nov. 7, Paxton’s office presented its oral argument before a panel of the 5th Circuit in defense of SB 4. Paxton’s office is the key enforcement agency for SB 4 and is accepting complaints regarding entities that violate the law.

Governor asks for tips

At least two deaths resulted from the detonation of explosive devices in packages placed at Austin residences.

Investigations by law enforcement have been in progress since citizens unwittingly picked up or opened the packages, causing the deadly detonations. 

Gov. Greg Abbott on March 12 issued a statement following what he termed “multiple package bombings,” saying, “As the investigation continues, the State of Texas will provide any resources necessary to ensure the safety of our citizens and quickly bring those guilty to justice.”

Abbott also said his Criminal Justice Division is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of anyone involved in the deadly blasts. To be eligible for a cash reward of up to $15,000, tips must be submitted to Texas Crime Stoppers using one of the following methods:

— Call the Texas Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS; or

— Text the letters “DPS” followed by any tip information to 274637.

County lacks jurisdiction

Attorney General Paxton on March 16 applauded the First Court of Appeals of Texas after it ruled that Waller County lacks jurisdiction to sue a private citizen who complained that the county unlawfully banned firearms from its government building. 

Paxton’s office filed a brief in the case, arguing that it should be dismissed.

In reversing a Waller County district court’s ruling, the Court of Appeals held that Terry Holcomb Sr. had a constitutional right to send a letter to Waller County asking it to comply with Texas’ open carry laws without fear of a retaliatory and meritless lawsuit. 

Zika cases are reported

The Texas Department of State Health Services on March 13 received reports of the first Texas Zika cases of 2018, two cases involving residents of Williamson County who got sick while abroad. 

People should remember to protect themselves from mosquito bites this spring as they travel, particularly to warmer climates where Zika is more prevalent, such as Central and South America and the Caribbean, the DSHS said.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause fever, rash, muscle and joint aches and red eyes. Zika has also been linked to microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant.