The Christmas Eve release of 12 illegal aliens in San Antonio could be the first major test of Texas’s anti-sanctuary law.
City Police Chief William McManus let the migrants go after they were found in a semi-trailer truck that had hauled them up from the border town of Laredo. The driver was charged under a state human-smuggling law, but McManus weakened the case by freeing the only witnesses – the victims.
McManus said his decision wasn’t due to a particular policy, an apparent attempt to dodge Texas’s Senate Bill 4, which makes it a crime for local officials to fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Smuggling investigations are routinely referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Such was the case last July, when 10 people were found dead in a semi-trailer truck in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot. Trucks in both the July incident and the latest case, on Dec. 23, transported illegal aliens from Laredo and points south.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has received written complaints from Texans urging the state to bring the weight of SB 4 to bear on McManus and any other San Antonio officials complicit in his action.
“We are accepting citizen complaints against government entities that violate SB 4 and will take appropriate action after investigation,” spokesman Marc Rylander said in a statement.
Paxton’s office is currently defending SB 4 in federal appeals court, where it’s being challenged by open-borders activists and others, including the City of San Antonio. Most of the law remains in effect during the litigation.
Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police union, said the city’s top cop went rogue.
“This case should have been handled by Homeland (Security). They’re the ones that should be handling human smuggling cases,” Helle told the San Antonio Express-News.
“Somehow McManus gets a hold of this, interjects himself into the situation, and starts calling Catholic Charities and all the people he can get a hold of to basically get rid of all these illegals before the feds get there,” Helle said.
In a violation of departmental procedure, detectives at police headquarters were directed not to check the witnesses’ names against federal and state criminal databases.
“If any one of our guys did this, they’d probably be put on administrative duty and terminated,” Helle said.
A.J. Louderback, a Texas sheriff who helped craft SB 4, said it was “a simple call to call ICE or Homeland Security Investigations to take over.”
“I don’t buy the idea that this was a confusing we-don’t-know-what-to-do thing, especially when we’ve had tragedies involving large numbers of people being transported illegally,” Louderback told FAIR.
“Texans and Americans want the rule of law enforced, and if you can’t trust law enforcement to do that, you’ve got a bigger problem.”