Alien smuggling is a serious federal offense involving transporting, harboring, or aiding individuals illegally crossing into the United States. This crime can lead to severe penalties, including up to 10 years in federal prison. The United States government has acted aggressively to combat illegal immigration and has put in place stringent laws to combat this issue. Charges can extend not just to those actively smuggling but also to anyone found aiding, abetting, or conspiring in these activities.
If you or a loved one has been charged with human smuggling, it’s important to act fast. A delay in seeking legal counsel can jeopardize your chances of a successful defense. Contact the experienced federal attorneys at the Law Office of Jorge Vela immediately to navigate the federal legal system and protect your rights.
Can I Be Arrested for Helping Smuggle an Illegal Immigrant Into the United States?
Yes. You can be charged with the Federal offense of Alien Smuggling. The federal law that makes it illegal to transport undocumented aliens across the U.S. and Mexico border is Title 8 of the United States Code, Section 1324. This law is aimed at those who help people cross American borders and enter our harbors illegally. It is also aimed at those who help non-citizens remain in the United States. The federal law makes any of the following acts (or any attempts of these acts) a crime:
- Alien Smuggling: Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(i) makes it an offense to knowingly bring or attempt to bring into the United States an alien at any place other than an official point of entry to the country, such as a port, airport, or land immigration checkpoint. This crime applies to aliens who are here with permission of the United States as well as those who have entered illegally.
- Domestic Transporting: Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) makes it a crime for any person, with knowledge or reckless disregard of the alien’s illegal immigration status, to transport an alien within the United States by any means of transportation.
- Harboring: Under Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), it is a crime for any person, with knowledge or reckless disregard of the alien’s illegal immigration status, to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection an immigrant in any place, including any building or any means of transportation.
- Encouraging/Inducing Illegal Immigration: It is a crime under Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) to encourage or induce an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that it will be a violation of law for the alien to do so.
- Conspiracy/Aiding or Abetting: Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(v) makes it a crime to engage in a conspiracy to commit or aid and abet the commission of any of these crimes.
Will I Be Facing Prison Time if I am Arrested for Human Smuggling?
The short answer is yes. The federal offense of immigrant smuggling is a very serious offense that could lead to serious prison time. If you are arrested for illegally transporting an undocumented alien, you could face up to ten (10) years in federal prison. The amount of time you are facing depends on a number of factors. Some factors that may increase the sentence you are facing may include:
- The number of undocumented non-citizens you were transporting or harboring.
- Whether you were transporting any unaccompanied minors.
- Whether you were transporting the aliens in an unsafe manner
- Whether any of the illegal immigrants were injured or died during the smuggling attempt
- Whether you received financial benefit from transporting the persons.
What Should I Do if Someone Has Been Arrested for Transporting, Harboring, or Smuggling of Persons?
The first thing you should do if you, a friend, or a family member is arrested for smuggling undocumented (illegal) aliens is contact an attorney who has experience in federal court. Attorney Jorge Vela is a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of human smuggling cases along the United States and Mexico border.
As a prosecutor, Jorge Vela gained valuable experience in how federal agencies handle human smuggling cases. Attorney Vela worked closely with Department of Homeland Security Agents, United States Border Patrol agents, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials investigating large-scale human smuggling operations along the border. As a defense attorney, he now has inside knowledge on how to defend individuals accused of human smuggling.
Contact a Federal Attorney if You’ve Been Charged with Transporting an Undocumented Alien
An experienced attorney can take several actions to fight a federal charge, such as:
- Analyzing the validity of the detention and any evidence obtained.
- Examining whether the accused’s constitutional rights were violated during the arrest or process.
- Seeking legal defenses, such as lack of knowledge or absence of criminal intent.
- Negotiating with prosecutors to pursue a reduction of charges or a favorable plea agreement.