The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s injunction, reinstating Texas’ illegal alien harboring law. The three-judge panel poured out the plaintiff’s claim that renting houses or providing social services would put them at risk of prosecution.
“Because there is no reasonable interpretation by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes ‘harboring…that person from detection,’ we reverse the injunction,” U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote in the opinion.
The appellate court ruled the plaintiffs, two Texas landlords, did not have standing because they were unable to show how the law put them at risk of prosecution, Courthouse News Service reported.
Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick reported in April 2016 that a federal district court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the state from enforcing the anti-harboring provisions of Texas House Bill 11. Shadwick wrote:
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 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.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reacted to the court’s decision, saying, “Today’s ruling by the 5th Circuit will allow the state to fight the smuggling of humans and illegal contraband by transnational gangs and perpetrators of organized crime, not just on the border, but throughout Texas.”
The Texas AG explained the court adopted his office’s position that “Because there is no reasonable interpretation by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes ‘harboring…that person from detection.’”
The law is intended to provide law enforcement and prosecutors an additional tool in fighting human smuggling and human trafficking. It makes the harboring of an illegal alien a third-degree felony, punishable by a two-ten year prison sentence and a fine of up to 10,000. It also adds a provision increasing the penalties and imposing a second-degree felony level if the alien is a minor, or if the harboring creates the possibility of serious bodily injury or death, Breitbart Texas reported. It created a first-degree felony crime for a situation where the person suffers sexual assault during the harboring, or the victim experiences serious bodily injury or death.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the initial ruling by the lower court, “absurd.”
Abbott’s press secretary John Wittman said in an email to Reuters that Abbot “was proud to sign HB 11 into law to crack down on human smuggling and increase penalties for perpetrators of these horrific crimes. He applauds today’s decision.”
Attorneys for the landlords said their clients were also pleased with the ruling. They stated the decision clarifies that the State cannot prosecute their clients for renting property or providing social services to illegal immigrants.