Immigrant rights attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging part of a Texas border security bill they say could allow state authorities to target shelters and landlords for harboring immigrants who are in the country illegally.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund is asking a judge to find unconstitutional part of the far-reaching security bill the state passed in 2015.
The group suing includes two landlords who say they could be hurt by the law because they don’t ask the immigration status of their tenants. Also suing is Jonathan Ryan, director of a San Antonio-based immigration legal services center that also runs a shelter for migrants whose staff and volunteers, he says, could be subject to prosecution.
Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, who authored the bill in question, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said the legislation was never intended to target shelters, aid workers or landlords and could not be used to do so.
But Nina Perales, the lead lawyer with MALDEF, said the law is intended to target people who do business with immigrants, such as landlords, or people carrying out humanitarian work in shelters.