When is harboring an immigrant not considered harboring?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2017 | US Immigration Law

Uncertainty continues to reign as efforts to enforce federal immigration law continue. The Trump administration continues to clash with state, county and city governments. The White House wants enforcement of immigration laws while more localized entities prefer to continue the status-quo of sanctuary policies.

A recent ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas provided much-needed clarity to the continuing confusion. The appellate court allowed enforcement actions to resume on a 2015 state law that penalized those who harbored immigrants in the United States illegally.

The decision ended a ten-month block on the anti-harboring provision following a decision by Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra. The provision was part of House Bill 11, a sweeping border security law.

The judge rejected arguments that the law created a new criminal defense being exclusive to human traffickers and smugglers. Ezra saw the law placing more Texans at risk of jail time, including the landlords, homeless shelter operators, and a legal aid organization that filed suit.

In dismissing the lawsuit, the judge denied that those who sued “cannot demonstrate a credible threat of prosecution.” The court clarified that renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien cannot be reasonably considered harboring.

Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund provided reserved praise for the ruling in spite of the lawsuit being dismissed. According to the MALDEF vice president for litigation, a more narrow definition of harboring and limitation of enforcement will shield property owners and humanitarian workers from arrests.