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Consequences for Smuggling Undocumented Immigrants

Consequences for Smuggling Undocumented Immigrants

Migrants have many reasons for traveling to the United States, but when it comes to illegally coming to the U.S., the reason is usually to seek a better quality of life. Many immigrants rightfully feel that the situation in their country of origin is unbearable, so they seek a new life and welfare in the United States. However, in situations of economic hardship and time constraints, it can be difficult to cross borders legally. This, however, is extremely illegal for the immigrant and those smuggling immigrants. 

In this article, we will go over the harsh realities of smuggling illegal immigrants and the punishments one faces for harboring illegal immigrants. If you are looking to come to the United States, the immigration and naturalization attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. are here to help. We can go over your options so that you can safely and legally enter the United States. 

The Harsh Reality of Smuggling Immigrants

The act of both smuggling and harboring illegal immigrants has been and continues to advance into strategic underground businesses that create mass profit for the ones smuggling. First and foremost, smuggling immigrants is highly illegal. If you are looking to come to the United States, understand that an underground smuggling agency is not in your best interest. It is illegal, yes, but it also leaves you extremely vulnerable.

Smugglers often commit this crime to profit at the hands of vulnerable immigrants. Most people seek to enter the United States as undocumented migrants to seek a better life, and typically, for good reason. Harsh living conditions, torment, and despair can leave people desperate to come to the U.S at any cost. However, smugglers capitalize on these harsh situations. 

Those committing the crime of smuggling immigrants leave the migrants at the hands of the criminals. They hold power over migrants, who are often kept or left in physically harmful conditions. There is no guarantee for safety, and many immigrants suffer pain, suffering, and even death en route to the U.S. with illegal smugglers. 

Who Are the People Smuggling Immigrants? 

The criminals who are transporting undocumented immigrants vary. While family members may try to smuggle relatives into the U.S., most often smugglers are considered “professional” criminals and make smuggling immigrants their full-time job. The underground smuggling business is growing into organized networks that involve borders much further than the United States. Regional and global organized crime groups have included smuggling with other trafficking crimes such as drugs. Other times, people may run a credible international business and smuggle people within their legitimate business for extra profit. 

In addition to organized smuggling groups, criminals who smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States can include:

  • Family members
  • One-time smugglers
  • Corrupt officials
  • Family members of those attempting to illegally come to the United States

Any person and/or group who participates in the crime of smuggling immigrants is considered a criminal in the eyes of the United States law. These smugglers are often people who are looking to make a profit and capitalize off of migrants’ vulnerability. Smuggling immigrants is known to bring in major profit for these criminals at the expense of an immigrant’s wellbeing. 

The Price of Smuggling Immigrants 

Oftentimes, there is a misconception that coming to the United States legally is more expensive than the alternative—illegally entering through smuggling. However, this is not the case. Though sometimes smuggling is “cheaper”, an immigrant’s safety is usually dependent on how much they are willing to pay. Since many immigrants come to the United States to flee hardship, many do not have the monetary means to pay for safe travels across borders. 

Instead, smugglers promise to accept small amounts of payments at a time. However, this debt can be detrimental to a person’s wellbeing. Immigrants may be stranded if they cannot produce payment or abused if they cannot pay. Either way, the result is harmful to the immigrant. 

Unlawful Entry

Unlawful entry is a felony. Crossing into the United States border illegally can result in criminal penalties, fines, and imprisonment. 

If you are a citizen of a country outside of the United States and are looking to enter the U.S., contact the immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. We can go over options for you about how to best enter the United States legally. If you are in a compromised situation and feel in danger, we can discuss potential options.

Working with an immigration attorney is the best way to enter the United States. We will make sure that your forms are filled out thoroughly with the appropriate evidence included. The immigration attorneys here at our firm are here to help you.  

The Laws Concerning Smuggling Immigrants

Smuggling illegal immigrants is a federal crime in the United States. Here, we will review the consequences of the person found smuggling immigrants. For more information about removal proceedings and unlawful entry penalties for noncitizens, click on the links. 

Two main laws cover the consequences of smuggling immigrants into the United States. The legal reference for smuggling consequences can be found in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. (I.N.A.), § 274(a)(1)(a) and 274 (a)(2). You can also find the statutes in  8 U.S.C. § 1324.

Categorizing Offenses 

Here are some of the main offenses that count as smuggling illegal immigrants:

  • Smuggling: including the physical act of smuggling or running a business to arrange for others to smuggle people into the U.S.
  • Harboring illegal immigrants: keeping and/or protecting people illegally present in the U.S
  • Transporting: the physical act of crossing the border

Other, less obvious offenses than the physical act of smuggling or harboring include:

  • Hiring an illegal immigrant, knowing they are not legally in the U.S. 
  • Committing marriage fraud 
  • Encouraging immigrants to illegally enter the United States

Smuggling Illegal Immigrants

Transporting undocumented immigrants can be charged in two main ways: escorting and smuggling. 

Transporting Undocumented Immigrants

It is a crime to aid in bringing an illegal immigrant into the United States at a location that does not have inspections. This means that a person needs to go through an official U.S. border patrol spot to enter the United States. Even if a non-U.S. citizen has a visa of any kind, they still must enter through a designated port, according to the U.S. Code on bringing in and harboring immigrants. Transporting undocumented immigrants into the United States anywhere else but a designated spot is illegal.

Harboring Illegal Immigrants

The next part of the law is in regards to harboring illegal immigrants. If a person does the following, they are breaking federal law:

  • Provides transportation
  • Attempts to transport an illegal immigrant into or inside of the United States
  • Conceals the person
  • Harbors the person
  • Provides protection for an illegal immigrant once they have been detected

Harboring can take the form of keeping a person in one spot or providing transportation for them. In the legal cases of smuggling immigrants, any attempt to do any of the above acts is also considered illegal. 

The harboring and transporting section, explicitly in Section 274(a)(2), refers to the act of sneaking an immigrant past the border patrol also. This differs from the first felony because, instead of avoiding a port of entry, the smuggler (attempts to) sneak the illegal immigrant through the port of entry. 

Human Smuggling Charges

The penalties for smuggling immigrants differ depending on the act of smuggling and other factors including if a person smuggles for profit. 

What Happens If You Get Caught Smuggling Immigrants

Transporting illegal immigrants can happen in two ways, as discussed above:

  • Smuggled across the border at a non-designated point of entry
  • Smuggled across a designated point-of-entry

If a smuggler brings an illegal immigrant over at a non-designated point of entry, they are liable to pay a fine, be imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both. However, this is for a single smuggled immigrant. The punishment can multiply. In addition, the following consequences can occur:

  • If a person is seriously injured or put into jeopardizing situations, the prison sentence rises to up to 20 years
  • If the smuggling results in death, the imprisonment can increase the number of years to life in prison

If the smuggler takes a person across a point-of-entry and sneaks them in, then the punishment is either a fine, up to one year in prison, or both. This same consequence is what happens if you house an illegal immigrant.

Smuggling Immigrants for Profit

If it is found that a person is transporting an illegal immigrant to make a profit, their sentence can be increased up to 10 years. The penalties for smuggling also increase with the number of times a smuggler is caught. They will need to give up any profit they made as well as the mode of transportation used for smuggling. 

Smuggling Immigration Factors

  • Additional factors that determine sentencing for smuggling immigrants include: the number of illegal immigrants the smuggler is attempting to bring to the United States
  • Whether or not there is a child being smuggled without the presence of the child’s parents
  • If there was possession of a gun while the smuggling was taking place

What About Political Asylum?

Political asylum is for foreign nationals who come to the United States seeking protection from the following reasons of and for persecution:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Nationality
  • Involvement in a societal/social group

Asylum seekers come to the United States for refuge, yet are different from refugees. Asylum seekers are seeking protection from persecution, but have not yet been considered a refugee; a refugee is forced to leave their nation because they are not protected by their government. Asylum is a difficult process as the asylum seeker must be physically present in the United States. You also must apply for political asylum within the first year of coming to the United States. 

So, what does political asylum have to do with transporting and harboring illegal immigrants? Because a person may not know the asylum process and attempt to harbor an illegal immigrant. If you or someone you know is attempting to help a person seeking asylum, the best thing to do is to bring them to an immigration officer. 

Bringing an illegal immigrant to an immigration officer may not excuse the smuggler from facing criminal penalties, but the severity and time may be reduced. If a person does not go straight to a checkpoint to help a noncitizen legally enter the U.S., they will face legal consequences, such as prison time for up to ten years. 

Come to the United States by Contacting the Immigration Attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C.

Immigration law is serious business and the consequences for smuggling immigrants are severe. Oftentimes, smuggling immigrants involve misusing and taking advantage of a person’s vulnerability. The immigration attorneys here at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. are on your side to safely and legally enter the United States. We provide affordable legal services to our clients. We care about your safety and your wellbeing. Talk to your legal team today so that we can ensure safe entry into the U.S.

Entering the United States legally will make life so much better going forward. If you enter the U.S. illegally, coming back to the U.S. is more difficult each time and you will most likely face penalties, especially for repeated unlawful entry. Though the process may seem intimidating at first, the immigration visa and green card lawyers at our immigration law office are here to provide solace and efficiency in your immigration process. We are here to help.

Contact us by calling 312.444.1940 or filling out an online form today. We look forward to hearing from you about your immigration needs!

We're looking forward to hearing from you!