December 30, 2019 By Paul Wallin

Can You be Prosecuted for Encouraging Illegal Immigration?

One of the most contentious issues that the United States has faced throughout its history has been the topic of illegal immigration. The U.S. government has often taken a hardline stance against illegal aliens, and many laws have been established in an attempt to dissuade non-citizens from settling without proper authorization. Although many undocumented citizens face harsh penalties including deportation, legal citizens can also be subjected to punishment for supporting them.

One such federal law that prohibits support for undocumented citizens was established in 1986, which addressesIllegal Immigration “Bringing In and Harboring Certain Aliens” (8 U.S. Code § 1324). This law makes it a federal crime to knowingly support illegal immigrants, and even criminalizes verbal encouragement. This means that if you were to say simply, “I encourage you to stay here,” to a family member, friend, or associate who is an undocumented immigrant, you can be charged of a federal crime and even face prison time.   

How the Supreme Court Could Change This Law

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear a particular case could change whether verbal encouragement can be protected under the First Amendment. The case in question, United States v. Sineneng-Smith, No.19-67, involves an immigration consulting firm from San Jose, California. The firm’s clients, primarily undocumented workers from the Philippines, were encouraged to remain in the United States so that they could apply for permanent citizenship through a Labor Department program. Although the program had expired, the firm’s owner, Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, argued that her encouragement to her clients should be considered protected speech.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately held that the 1986 law forbidding encouragement of illegal immigration is overbroad, and thus violates the First Amendment. As a result, the case will now head to the Supreme Court to reach a final decision on the matter.

The Court had previously stated that striking down broad laws could only occur if there were a substantial amount of real-world settings proving that the laws are unconstitutional. In addition, the Trump administration has voiced criticisms about the 9th Circuit’s decision, and has urged the Supreme Court to hear this appeal. Despite these factors, it remains to be seen what stance the Court will ultimately take in regards to the constitutionality of the 1986 law, and its overall impact on verbal encouragements.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today If You Are Facing Federal Charges

Federal criminal charges carry extremely harsh punishments, and it is very important to retain the services of a skilled criminal defense law firm in order to provide you the best possible defense in your case.

With over 40 years’ of successfully handling federal criminal cases in Southern California, the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich will use every possible defense to protect your freedom. Our offices are located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside, Victorville, West Covina, and Torrance.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

Practice area

  • Contact Us Now

    If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, now is the time to contact us.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

SCHEDULE YOUR free consultation

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, this is the time to contact us.