Advocates Say Texas Omnibus Law Targeting those who Shelter Undocumented Immigrants

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January 4, 2017; NBC News

Yesterday, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments in a case challenging key provisions of House Bill 11, an omnibus bill passed in Texas last year that targets any individual who “encourages or induces a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection.”

The Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund, or MALDEF, has filed suit in response, claiming the law is sufficiently broad to include anyone who rents to or shelters undocumented immigrants.

MALDEF brought the suit on behalf of two landlords and two shelters. Now, the court must now decide the question of standing.

The law, claim the state of Texas’s lawyers, is meant to target not humanitarian workers, but smugglers. It doesn’t actually prohibit sheltering undocumented immigrants, but criminalizes concealing them from detection.

Right now, a lower court ruling has blocked implementation of these elements in the law. MALDEF’s position is that these kinds of state enforcement measures are unconstitutional at the state level and rightly belong in the purview of the federal government.—Ruth McCambridge