Texas Law that Forbids Harboring Illegal Aliens Is Temporarily Enjoined

By Dan Cadman on April 18, 2016

A federal judge in San Antonio has issued a temporary injunction against a Texas statute signed into law nearly a year ago that forbids harboring illegal aliens.

According to Breitbart, the injunction is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of a migrant center. The center claims not to inquire into the immigration status of its clientele, but says forthrightly in its complaint: "In his role as Executive Director of RAICES, Plaintiff Ryan provides shelter to immigrant women and children who are not authorized to be present in the U.S. and lack lawful immigration status." So clearly the assertion that the individuals aren't being asked anything about their status is a legal fiction designed to provide a fig leaf of protection against enforcement activities at either the state or federal level.

The decision to issue the injunction seems curious to me. It is well settled that state and local governments may not go their own path and intrude on uniquely federal prerogatives in the arena of immigration (except, apparently, where "sanctuary" rules are concerned, which this administration has been so obligingly inclined to ignore). But where harboring is concerned, Congress doesn't seem to have been inclined to singularly occupy the field.

The federal anti-smuggling/anti-harboring statute, 8 U.S.C. Section 1324, says this at subsection (c):

Authority to arrest. No officer or person shall have authority to make any arrests for a violation of any provision of this section except officers and employees of the Service designated by the Attorney General, either individually or as a member of a class, and all other officers whose duty it is to enforce criminal laws. (Emphasis added.)

This provision has been repeatedly held to permit sworn state and local law enforcement officers to enforce the statute. It has been particularly useful, for instance, as a force multiplier for federal immigration and border agents when state highway patrol vehicles pull over vans, cars, and buses for vehicular infractions, only to discover that they are in fact smuggling aliens. The same has held true when neighbors call local police to report strange comings and goings in a subdivision home, only to discover that it is a safe house for an alien smuggling ring.

Under these circumstances, one can only wonder why the federal judge thinks that the state of Texas is forbidden from enacting a law that appears to be consonant with what federal law already permits its officers to do.

But if the injunction ends up being permanent, my strong suggestion to Texas is to enact a policy directing its state and local law enforcement officers to continue doing what they must and should be doing to interdict alien smuggling and harboring, and simply present the charges to the U.S. attorneys for federal prosecution under 8 U.S.C. § 1324.