San Antonio, the nation’s seventh largest metropolis, doesn’t declare itself a “sanctuary city,” but the release of a dozen illegal aliens earned it an $11.6 million lawsuit from the state of Texas.
Filing the first legal action under Texas’s SB 4 anti-sanctuary law, Attorney General Ken Paxton said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus “skirted” the state statute by ignoring Homeland Security’s requests to investigate the case. “Chief McManus called a private entity to take the aliens away from Homeland Security and their status remains unknown,” Paxton said. “No city in Texas should put the safety of police officers and the public at risk by defying state law.”
The attorney general’s action comes nearly a year after San Antonio police officers found a tractor-trailer truck loaded with illegal aliens last Dec. 23. An agent from Homeland Security Investigations offered to assist police with interviews. But the agent was told “no” by the chief who said he did not want HSI to “scare people.”
McManus later asserted that his department had no jurisdiction to detain the migrants. But SAPD acknowledged it had received a $500,000 grant to train officers to identify and investigate human smuggling and trafficking.
Truck driver Herbert Alan Nichols, 58, of Houston, was arrested the day his rig and cargo were discovered, and preliminarily charged with human smuggling. But with all the potential witnesses in the wind, he, too, was released.
“We were not able to indict … because we didn’t have the evidence,” Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood said.
In addition to the $11.6 million in fines, the Attorney General’s Office seeks an injunction to stop San Antonio from enforcing policies “thwarting” federal immigration enforcement officials.
Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, wants McManus placed on administrative leave immediately, standard departmental procedure for any officer accused of a violation of law.
“We said at the time that the chief’s actions violated state law. Now the whole U.S. is watching,” Helle said.
The Center for Immigration Studies lists hundreds of cities and counties as designated “sanctuary” jurisdictions. That San Antonio is not on that roster points to an even broader problem of non-compliance with U.S. immigration enforcement.
At least the state of Texas (which CIS shows as having no sanctuary cities) is on the case. Officials in San Antonio — home to an estimated 85,000 illegal aliens — must be held accountable for their duplicity … even if it is a year after the fact.
Bob Dane is the executive director of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.