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Texas Law on Harboring Immigrants Challenged

On Monday, Jan. 26, a federal lawsuit was filed by immigrant rights attorneys challenging a Texas border security bill; they are contending that it could target landlords and shelters for harboring illegal immigrants.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund is hopeful that a judge will find part of a security bill passed in 2015 unconstitutional.

The parties in the lawsuit include two landlords who fear that they could be harmed by the law since they don’t ask their tenants’ immigration status.

Another party to the lawsuit is J. Ryan, the director of an immigration legal services center that operates a shelter for immigrants. He’s also concerned that he’ll become the target of prosecution under the bill.

Dennis Bonnen, the Republican state Rep. who authored the bill says that the lawsuit is “frivolous.” He explained that the legislation was never intended to target landlords, shelters or aid workers, and he said that it could not be used to target these individuals.

Nina Perales, the lead attorney for MALDEF disagrees. She says that the law is intended to target individuals who work with immigrants, such as landlords and those involved in humanitarian work for shelters.

“There can be no explanation for this harboring statute than to intimidate people,” she said.

The bill, known as HB 11 was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015; it was a part of an $800 million border security measure. The plaintiffs are worried about a section of the bill that targets people who encourage, profit or induce immigrants who stay in the U.S. illegally.

Under the provision, people who conceal, harbor or shield people from detection could be charged with various felonies, depending on the immigrant’s age, and whether the immigrant becomes a victim of sexual assault or another crime.

One of the plaintiffs in the case, D. Cruz, a San Antonio landlord, called the law broad and vague. Cruz said that the law could affect him if he has to determine the residency status of his tenants, and he feels that’s not his role.

Do you have questions about how the harboring provision under HB 11 might affect you? Contact a Plano immigration attorney from The Zendeh Del Law Firm for answers!