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Austin network prepares for immigration crackdown, faces potential legal obstacles, P.2

In our last post, we began discussing some of the preparations being made by a local coalition in Austin in anticipation of an immigration crackdown under President Trump. As we noted, the group is training volunteers to obstruct the work of ICE in any forthcoming crackdown in enforcement of immigration laws.

One of the difficulties the group may end up facing is that, under Texas law, it is a felony to hide undocumented immigrants from authorities. Last year, Governor Greg Abbot signed into law an omnibus bill aimed at enhancing immigration enforcement by targeting anybody who "encourages or induces" individuals to enter or remain in the United States in violation of federal immigration law. This includes "concealing, harboring, or shielding' undocumented immigrants from authorities. Over $800 million has been set aside for the enforcement of the law. 

The status of the law is somewhat in limbo as it has been challenged in court as unconstitutional on the grounds that the federal government rather than state governments has authority over immigration law. Proponents of the law, though, argue that the law doesn't actually address immigration per se, but smuggling, since the state law still leaves the federal government in control of immigrants.

One of the concerns of opponents of the law is that those who rent housing to illegal immigrants could be prosecuted as criminals. According to proponents, however, that is not true since the law criminalizes intentionally hiding undocumented immigrants from authorities. It remains to be seen how the courts will handle the legal challenge, and whether the law will ever be enforced in court.

As Trump's immigration reform gets underway, it will certainly be critical for immigrants to have sound legal advice. In addition, American citizens who choose to become involved in efforts to oppose an immigration crackdown should, first of all, be aware of the legal challenges they may face in doing so, and secondly, work with experienced legal counsel to protect their rights in the event that they face criminal charges. 

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