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INFORMATION FOR SHELTERS AND OTHER SOCIAL SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS THAT HELP IMMIGRANTS

What is the Texas immigrant smuggling law?

Texas created its immigrant smuggling law in 2015. Under this law, it is illegal to knowingly encourage a person to come into or stay in the U.S. in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection. Tex. Penal Code Sec. 20.05(a)(2). In a case brought by MALDEF, a federal appeals court declared that humanitarian organizations that feed, shelter and provide social services to undocumented immigrants do not meet the definition of harboring in the Texas immigrant smuggling law. Cruz v. Abbott, 849 F.3d 594 (5th Cir. 2017).


What is the Texas Attorney General Doing in El Paso?

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent investigators to stake out Annunciation House, a non-profit homeless shelter in El Paso, and watch its activities. On February 7, 2024, Paxton demanded that Annunciation House turn over documents, including logs identifying shelter guests who are not U.S. citizens and documents provided by non-U.S. citizen shelter guests during the intake process at Annunciation House. Paxton has now filed court papers seeking to shut down Annunciation House. Based on the routine operations of the shelter, Paxton claims that Annunciation House is encouraging and helping people to violate U.S. immigration law, that Annunciation House’s activity “presents a very significant likelihood of human smuggling”, that “Annunciation house appears to be engaged in the operation of an illegal stash house” and that Annunciation House’s legal workshops to assist asylum seekers may cross the line into immigration fraud.


How can This Affect Your Organization?

If your organization openly provides shelter, transportation, legal advice or other services to immigrants, you may be investigated by the Attorney General who has targeted Annunciation House for investigation and closure.


What can you do Next?

If a law enforcement agent or other Texas government official comes to your property with a request to enter or inspect your documents, contact your attorney, MALDEF, or another trusted attorney immediately to discuss this request.


Please talk with your employees and volunteers and tell them to alert you to any request by Texas officials to enter your property or inspect the organization’s documents.


FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS, PLEASE CONTACT FATIMA MENENDEZ, MALDEF SOUTHWEST REGIONAL COUNSEL, AT FMENENDEZ@MALDEF.ORG OR (210) 224-5476

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