San Marcos City Council votes to file amicus brief opposing 'sanctuary cities' bill

San Marcos City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday morning to file an amicus brief opposing Senate Bill 4, also known as the "sanctuary cities" bill.

The vote comes a week after council spent three hours in executive session debating whether to join the lawsuit several other Texas cities have filed against the state regarding the bill, which enables law-enforcement officials to inquire about the immigration status of any individual and threatens to punish cities and government officials who fail to comply with the law.

"Social justice and racial equality shouldn't have to be on a legislative policy in order to protect it," Council Member Lisa Prewitt said before the vote Tuesday.

Last week, instead of voting to join the litigation, City Council approved a statement expressing concerns about the effects of SB 4.

"The City Council believes that immigration is a federal government responsibility. SB 4 may impose an unfunded state mandate, and provisions in SB 4 may violate the United States Constitution," the statement read.

Many council members on Tuesday said they wanted to see the amicus brief—which serves as a legal document filed in appellate court cases by parties with a strong interest in the subject matter—filed as quickly as possible.

Council Member Ed Mihalkanin said the council received two examples of amicus briefs over the weekend. Council agreed to allow the city attorney to model San Marcos' amicus brief after those.

"I regret we are having this vote today and not months ago," he said.

The law will go into effect Sept. 1 unless U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia decides to grant a preliminary injunction, which would halt the law going into effect while the court case is ongoing.

"Time is of the essence," Mayor John Thomaides said.

Council Member Jane Hughson said she wanted the amicus brief to include language on the importance of safety in the community as well as addressing the constitutional amendments SB 4 "seems to be throwing out the window."

Karen Munoz, one of the organizers of the nonprofit Mano Amiga, which provides educational resources for immigrants, cried following the vote.

"Do we like that council waited until 10 days before SB 4's decision to act? No," she said. "But we are proud this vibrant community succeeded in pushing San Marcos onto the right side of history in this moment of moral crisis. This is a win for Texas families and a win for the community, and it's amazing that it happened through a seven-day reversal due to grass-roots organizing."