TUESDAY TALK: Texas Gov. sued over 'immigrant harboring' law


SAN ANTONIO-Passed in June and taking effect in September last year, HB 11 is a $310 million dollar border security bill. It's meant to crack down on immigrant exploitation. Part of it includes stricter anti-immigrant harboring laws, the source of today's filing.

"We know that federal law is supreme," says Nina Perales, VP of litigation at MALDEF. "This lawsuit is intended to establish that the state cannot set up its own set of rules for harboring and then start arresting them with a crime."

The author of the bill, State Representative Dennis Bonnen, told us over the phone he was shocked when he first heard about the lawsuit earlier today.

"This lawsuit is beyond frivolous and ludicrous."

The suit names three plaintiffs: two landlords who rent to undocumented immigrants, and Jonathan Ryan, the Executive Director of Refugee and Immigrant Center and Legal Services or RAICES.

Ryan says, "If this law were to be fully implemented, then I would be in jail and our work would be illegal and impossible."

Ryan works with federal immigration officials, who bring undocumented immigrants from detention centers to the shelter daily. They're seeking a place to stay for a night or two, before they fly or are bussed to their family.

"They're requesting assistance for housing 6 families," Ryan says reading a recent email from ICE.

Bonnen assures what RAICES and the landlords are doing can keep happening. They are not the target of HB 11.

"As long as they're not forcing people into prostitution, violence, forced labor, sexual assault, they're not working with those drug cartels that are doing so they don't have a thing in the world to concern themselves with."

Governor Greg Abbott is among the defendants being sued. Abbott spokesperson John Wittman says, "Governor Abbott was proud to sign HB 11, which will crack down on human smuggling and increase penalties for perpetrators of these horrific crimes."

WHAT DO YOU THINK: Should immigration laws be handled at the state or the federal level?

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