Immigration Law

5th Circuit tosses challenge to Texas law banning the harboring of immigrants here illegally

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5th Circuit

The John Minor Wisdom Federal Court of Appeals Building in New Orleans.

Citing a lack of standing by the plaintiffs, a federal appeals court on Thursday dismissed a challenge to a Texas law that makes it a felony to harbor or conceal immigrants who are in the country illegally,

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals dismissed the challenge and lifted an injunction that had prevented enforcement of the law, report NBC News, Reuters, the Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle.

The plaintiffs challenging the law included two San Antonio landlords, and two social services officials whose groups provide shelter for immigrants and low-income people. The 5th Circuit said the challengers did not have standing because they hadn’t demonstrated a credible threat of prosecution under the law.

“There is no reasonable interpretation by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes ‘harboring … that person from detection,’” said the opinion (PDF) by Judge Jerry Smith.

The plaintiffs were represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The group’s vice president of litigation, Nina Perales, praised the court for its narrow definition of “harboring” that she believes will protect shelter workers and landlords from arrest under the law.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also praised the decision. “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,” he said.

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