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A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lower court injunction that blocked Texas from enforcing a 2015 law making it a third-degree felony to “harbor” illegal aliens. The panel ruled that two Texas landlords, who has sued seeking protection from the law, did not have standing because they could not prove a credible threat of prosecution.

The law, which was intended to fight human trafficking, made it a crime to “encourage or induce a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection.” Penalties included jail time and a $10,000 fine.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) challenged the law on behalf two landlords and an immigrant services agency, alleging that they could be accused of a crime for housing illegal aliens. A district judge enjoined the law ruling that, in a hearing on the merits of the case, the plaintiffs might be able to demonstrate “irreparable harm.”

In the case before the Fifth Circuit State Texas Attorney General Ken Paxson argued the plaintiffs did not have standing because they were not violating the law. He said the statute applies to those who hide illegal aliens from law enforcement authorities, not to those who just shelter them.

Writing for the panel Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith said “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.”

Read more in the Texas Tribune.

state policies
Interior Enforcement

Updated: Fri, Mar 10th 2017 @ 10:40am EST