SAN ANTONIO, TX – Today, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the immigrant harboring provision of HB11, which was enacted in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session. Judge Ezra, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that the Texas immigrant harboring law is preempted by federal law: “Congress created a federal statutory scheme regarding the harboring and transporting of undocumented aliens so pervasive that it left no room in this area for the state of Texas to supplement it.” Judge Ezra also concluded that the Texas immigrant harboring law conflicted with federal harboring law in key respects and thus was likely preempted. Although the court dismissed two other claims put forward by the plaintiffs, the court held that because the Texas immigrant harboring provision was likely unconstitutional, it should be blocked.
The Texas immigrant harboring provision in HB 11 created a new state felony offense under which individuals could be arrested and prosecuted for providing shelter or renting a home to undocumented immigrants.
“Residents and taxpayers are ill-served by elected officials who continue to legislate in service of short-term political opportunism, rather than in answer to critical needs of residents,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “Texas should respond to this court order by reorienting its lawmaking away from anti-immigrant posturing.”
The plaintiffs in the case are two landlords who do not ask tenants for proof of immigration status as a condition of renting property, the Executive Director of RAICES, an organization that provides shelter and legal services to undocumented immigrants, and the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a homeless shelter in Brownsville, Texas.
“The Texas immigrant harboring law placed everyday businesses and charities at risk of criminal prosecution,” stated Nina Perales, MALDEF Vice President of Litigation and lead counsel in the case. “Texas now has the dubious distinction of having joined all the other states whose attempts to regulate immigration have been struck down by the federal courts,” continued Perales.