In Texas, It’s a Felony to Harbor an Illegal Alien – But What Does that Mean?

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated a Texas law that makes it a felony punishable by up to 10 years to harbor illegal aliens.  The ruling lifted an injunction that had blocked the 2015 law from taking full effect, in a ruling praised by both the state and immigrant advocates.

The law makes it a felony to encourage unauthorized immigrants to enter or remain in the country by concealing, harboring or shielding that person from detection.  Two landlords had sued to prevent enforcement arguing that the law was overly broad and could apply to people who rent apartments and homes to undocumented immigrants.  Texas argued that the law was intended to apply only to alien smuggling and human trafficking operations.  But that wasn’t the way the law was written and  – given the near total control of the State by the Red Meat Wing of the Republican Party – it was an open question as to who could be prosecuted.

The Fifth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Jerry Smith, cleared the air by holding that the law as written does not apply to persons who provide shelter to or conduct business with illegal aliens.

“There is no reasonable interpretation by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes ‘harboring … that person from detection.'”

Thus, landlords and homeless shelters cannot be prosecuted.  Here, the Fifth Circuit saved the bacon of the pathetic excuse for an Attorney General that is Ken Paxton by issuing a ruling that saves the statute but likely does not accomplish what the Tea Party dominated State House really wanted.

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