If you’ve paid any attention to the news cycle, you’ve likely seen extensive coverage of the U.S.-Mexico border and the influx of immigrants attempting to cross the border unlawfully, and you might be wondering how that affects you and the immigrant community.
While national and state agencies in Texas have previously been unable to agree on best practices for handling border safety, there is a more united front from law enforcement. There has been a 300% increase in the volume of arrests for alien smuggling just in the last 60 days. Most offenders found guilty of alien smuggling receive imprisonment as punishment.
What is Alien Smuggling?
If you are a member of the immigrant community, the term “alien smuggling” is something you’ve heard, and it could be something in which you’ve participated, whether you realize it or not.
For those not familiar with terms associated with unlawful border crossing, alien smuggling is defined as any act in any way at any time that assists somebody with the unlawful entry into the United States.
If that sounds like a pretty broad definition to you, that’s because it is, which is why it’s important to fully understand what alien smuggling is and how you can be charged with this crime.
Let’s take a look at four key factors to remember about alien smuggling to keep yourself and your loved ones in a safe space.
1) Family Ties Do Not Matter
We regularly hear a common misconception amongst those charged with alien smuggling, and that is the idea that assisting a family member in unlawful crossing is defensible. That’s not the case. It doesn’t matter if you’re legally in the U.S. and your family needs help or reprieve coming to the U.S. unlawfully. It doesn’t matter if you’ve known this person your entire life and know that they are good people. Their connection to you has nothing to do with defending yourself against alien smuggling crimes.
2) Financial Gain Is Not a Factor
We all know about paid coyotes who assist immigrants with unlawful passage over the border, but what if you’re helping someone out of the goodness of your heart with no financial gain?
Short answer: it’s still a crime.
While profiting or not from alien smuggling can affect the degree of sentencing, it does not absolve you from the crime, money or not.
3) Aiding and Abetting Counts as a Crime
“Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law” is a phrase we’ve covered and all know well, and it’s also true when it comes to alien smuggling. You don’t have to physically bring someone across the border to be charged with this crime. Remember that broad definition of alien smuggling we mentioned? It applies to any form of help given. Perhaps you sent money to someone unlawfully crossing. That’s a crime. Did you arrange housing for someone who crossed illegally? That’s a crime. You might have even picked up an undocumented person who crossed illegally from somewhere within the U.S. The onus is still on you, as that is assisting with their unlawful entry here.
With so many ways to be charged with this crime, it’s imperative that you’re extra careful when doing favors, like giving rides or assistance, even if it’s your family or a trusted friend who happens to be here illegally.
4) Knowledge is Power (and so is a good immigration attorney)
In the past, we’ve talked a lot about prior knowledge of a crime and how that understanding can play a big part of your defense. This is relevant to alien smuggling charges because the government must prove you had knowledge that the person you assisted did not have legal status here to charge you with alien smuggling.
Here’s where an experienced immigration attorney comes into play. Practiced counsel will know exactly how to present this defense in your case, even if you were apprehended physically bringing an undocumented person across the border.
In short, be careful of all of the ways you can be in the wrong for alien smuggling, and don’t lose hope if you or someone you know have alien smuggling charges against to fight. Please reach out to us here at Peek & Toland if you have any questions about these charges or are facing them—we’re well practiced and here to help.
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