A federal district judge in San Antonio has issued an order stopping a Texas law criminalizing the harboring of illegal aliens, at least for now. The judge issued the preliminary injunction in MALDEF’s (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) lawsuit challenging Texas House Bill 11, a law which open border advocates are fighting because they say it improperly targets illegal alien shelters and those who rent to illegal aliens.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are David Cruz of San Antonio and Valentin Reyes of Farmers Branch, Texas, and Jonathan Ryan. Cruz and Reyes are both landlords who do not check whether their tenants are legally in the country. Jonathan Ryan is the Executive Director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).
The federal complaint states that “In his role as Executive Director of RAICES, Plaintiff Ryan provides shelter to immigrant women and children who are not authorized to be present in the U.S. and lack lawful immigration status. Many of the immigrant women and children sheltered by Plaintiff Ryan are asylum-seekers from East Africa and Central America who entered the U.S. without authorization and are in federal removal proceedings.”
The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit on January 24 and sued Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven C. McCraw, and members of the Texas Public Safety Commission.
The bi-partisan bill, signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on June 9, 2015, gives power to the Texas Department of Public Safety, relates to military and law enforcement training, and the investigation, prosecution, punishment, and prevention of these offenses, it increases a criminal penalty, and authorizes fees.
The harboring provisions are part of a $800 million border security effort by the Texas Governor and the Texas legislature.
Breitbart Texas attended the ceremony when Abbott signed into law the toughest and most comprehensive border security plan of any state in the United States of America. The Governor noted that the Texas-Mexico border can be a gateway to crimes committed in other parts of the U.S.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, the legislative package provided historic levels of funding to secure the border, established a child sex trafficking prevention unit, strengthened penalties for human traffickers, increased funding for the border protection unit, and seeks reimbursement from the federal government for Texas funds spent on border issues. The Governor declared the plan a legislative priority, and one of his emergency legislative items during his State of the State address.
“We are doing this because border security has turned out to be a real challenge for the people of this state, not just on the border region but across communities across the entire state of Texas,” the Texas governor said at the ceremony. Because of the magnitude of the challenge, Abbott declared securing the border an emergency issue. He said Texas must respond to do what the federal government refused to do.
The bill became effective on September 1, 2015. The plaintiffs say the pertinent sections of the bill are unconstitutional because they violate the Supremacy Clause and attempt to regulate matters exclusively reserved to the federal government. They argue only the U.S. Congress has authority over these areas and the state law conflicts and interferes with the implementation and enforcement of federal laws and regulations.
The plaintiffs also claim that the law deprives the plaintiffs of liberty and property interests without due process of law and are “void for vagueness” in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, they argue that the law deprives them of the equal protection of the laws in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiffs ask for attorneys’ fees and costs for bringing the lawsuit.
Texas officials assert that House Bill 11 was aimed at those who traffic humans and smuggle them into the country illegally for money. The law criminalizes harboring or shielding an illegal alien with the intent to obtain a pecuniary benefit, and harboring illegal aliens that are members of a street gang.
The penalty for a harboring violation is a third degree felony and carries a possible sentence from 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the harbored illegal alien is under the age of eighteen, or the harboring creates a substantial likelihood that the illegal alien will suffer serious bodily injury or death, the offense is a second degree felony that carries a possible prison sentence of life, or 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the person becomes a sexual assault victim, or suffers other serious bodily injury or death, it is a first degree felony and the possible penalty is 5-99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Governor Abbott responded to the news of the preliminary injunction by stating, “This is absurd.” The governor of the Lone Star State said he would appeal the federal judge’s order blocking the Texas law that criminalizes concealing illegal immigrants.