Experts say proposed League City ordinance on immigrant children won't hold up

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on July 7, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 7 at 6:52 PM

LEAGUE CITY, Texas – The city council of League City will consider a proposed ordinance banning the housing or detention of undocumented immigrants within city limits at their Tuesday night meeting.

But it’s a proposal that some legal experts already say will not stand the test of law.

The ordinance, proposed by Councilwoman Heidi Thiess, cites public safety and taxpayer expense as reasons for League City to consider putting a stop to any federal effort to house the current wave of illegal immigrants here.

It reads in part:

“…all agencies of the City of League City are instructed to refuse requests or directives by federal agencies to permit or establish any facility for the purposes of processing, housing, or detaining any illegal aliens, designated “refugee” or otherwise.”

And asks that the council “…appeal to state legislators and elected officials for action and accountability to urgently address the continuing influx of illegal aliens across our border.”

“I do not trust federal agencies to bring their mismanagement into our town,” said Thiess. “It does have an impact on our local resources, emergency services, public safety. All of our resources including education.”

Thiess said she’s trying to avoid a drain on local taxpayers and trying to avert a protest showdown like the one last week in Murrietta, Calif. where angry taxpayers blocked buses filled with immigrant children.

“So it would be imprudent to plug my ears and close my eyes and say well this will never happen. Because it is happening right now,” she said.

“I think they’re doing the right thing,” said League City resident Henry Drilling who said he supports Thiess’ proposed resolution. “Absolutely, absolutely I sure would. And if we don’t do that, make a stand, I think this whole thing is gonna really explode on them.”

“I just feel like this is America. We’re the country of equal rights and all that,” said League City resident Naomi Hart. “And I feel like those rights should extent to these immigrants as well.”

But is the proposal legal?

“The federal government’s laws trump everything else,” said KHOU 11 News legal expert Prof. Gerald Treece with the South Texas College of Law.

Treece points to Farmers Branch in the suburbs of Dallas. That city fought for eight years to block undocumented workers from jobs and housing in that city. This year the Supreme Court ended that argument, refusing to overturn lower court rulings that said it was a federal matter and not something local governments can decide.

“City councils get frustrated with immigration problems,” said Treece. “But it’s simply not the city’s legal right to tell the federal government what they can and cannot do in the area of immigration. Even states don’t have the authority to do this, much less a city.”

There is no indication shelters are planned for League City, although as KHOU 11 News first reported last week, The Children’s Center in Galveston, and at its facility in Brazoria County, is housing some of the immigrant children.

Even so, Thiess hopes she finds others on the city council, who see the crisis the same way she does.

“If they are going behind the back of local authorities to establish detention centers in communities about our size, we have to be proactive, we have to plan for this,” said Thiess.

The League City Council is scheduled to consider the proposal at its Tuesday night council meeting.

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