City Council votes unanimously to file amicus curiae brief in SB4 lawsuit

DAILY RECORD PHOTO BY DENISE CATHEY

SB4

The San Marcos City Council took an equal and opposite action from its decision last week on how to respond to the controversial Senate Bill 4. At a special meeting held at 8 this morning, the council voted unanimously to file an amicus curiae brief in the federal court case over the law, which requires local law enforcement departments to carry out federal immigration laws.

“Are we happy with the fact that council is making this decision 10 days before SB 4 takes effect? No,” said Karen Muñoz of Mano Amiga, the grassroots organization that has been working for local action against SB 4 for several months, after the council meeting. “But we're really incredibly proud of everyone who pushed council to make the right decision.”

Scores of people showed up to show support for council action; few chairs inside the council chamber were left empty, and dozens of residents gathered in the lobby of City Hall to hold signs and watch the council meeting on monitors.

Council member Ed Mihalkanin made the motion to consider filing the amicus brief, which expresses support for the cities that have joined the lawsuit against the state over SB 4. Council members Saul Gonzales and Lisa Prewitt seconded the motion.

Over the weekend, City Attorney Michael Cosentino had presented council members with copies of two amicus briefs filed thus far in the lawsuit. Cosentino listed several objections to SB 4 mentioned in the briefs, including concerns about constitutionality.

Cosentino told the council that the judge in the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, could issue a preliminary ruling in a matter of days. Gonzales asked Cosentino if the council would have to meet again to approve the amicus brief before filing it, and Cosentino said it would be up to council if the members wanted to meet again but that doing so would delay the process further.

Council member Jane Hughson said that she liked a lot of the points mentioned in the amicus brief filed by the police chiefs and mayors of major cities because they focus on the safety aspects of implementing SB 4, but she said she would like the city's amicus brief to also mention the parts of the Constitution that the bill seems to ignore.

Council member Scott Gregson – who, though on vacation out of state, was able to participate under a new law that allows council members to attend meetings and vote via video conference – urged other members of the council to act quickly to “make this brief a reality.”

During the discussion of filing an amicus brief, Prewitt gave a statement about the importance of acting against SB 4 and about the council's decision last week.

“I know that many in our community were frustrated, were disappointed,” she said, adding that she wanted to file an amicus brief then. “It should have been done last week.”

Prewitt said that SB 4 is less about immigration reform than about stripping local control from cities. She also said that although some residents had been told the council hadn't considered action on SB 4 because it wasn't part of the city's legislative policy, “Social justice and racial equality shouldn't have to be in a legislative policy to be defended.”

Gonzales, the sole Hispanic member of the city council, said he has always been against SB 4.

“I know what this bill's all about,” he said. “This is the past, but it's coming back, and we've got to take a stand.”

Council member Melissa Derrick praised Prewitt's comments and apologized for her part in the council's delay in taking action on the matter, adding that “Fear-based decision making is never the way to go.”
Mihalkanin said that since last week's meeting, the council and individual members had received a multitude of letters and emails about SB 4. He mentioned the “clear wrongheadedness of this law” and also apologized for the delay in council action.

“I regret we're having this vote today and not months ago,” he said. “This SB 4 reaches deep into all local communities and rides roughshod over local government.”

Mayor John Thomaides mentioned attending a church meeting Monday night with local pastors and representatives of the San Marcos Police Department, where the discussion was about the recent white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the violence that erupted there.

“I know we're here to talk about SB 4 … but I think these two are related in their lack of civility and lack of common decency for all our community members and for free speech,” Thomaides said.

The mayor said he has signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Compact to Combat Hate, which includes vocally rejecting extremism and bigotry, ensuring both free speech and safety for residents, empowering law enforcement to more thoroughly investigate acts of domestic terrorism and hate crimes, and maintaining civil rights enforcement.

Thomaides said the amicus brief will be filed “with all deliberate speed.”
Frank Arredondo, former San Marcos mayor and officer in the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 654, congratulated the council on making what he called the right decision.

“Today, Arredondo said, “humanity prevailed.”

San Marcos Daily Record

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