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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / Immigrant Smuggling In America

Immigrant Smuggling In America


With all the discussion on the practices of the current federal administration with regard to immigration law, it is understandable to become somewhat confused about the criminal ramifications of some immigration acts. While the right to seek asylum is a legal right under both U.S. and international law, there are other acts related to immigration that can trigger both immigration-related and criminal law consequences. None is prosecuted more aggressively than alien smuggling, and if you have been arrested and charged with alien smuggling, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that this does not irretrievably damage your future.

A Very Wide Definition

The federal definition of alien smuggling is when anyone knowingly “encourages, induces, assists, abets or aids” anyone to enter (or try to enter) the United States without documentation, and in a place other than a port of entry. Ostensibly this is meant to crack down on human trafficking and sex work, but it also means that a great many otherwise innocuous actions have the potential to be criminalized. For example, a U.S. citizen grandmother sending money to her grandson in Mexico could, in some situations, be held as “abetting or aiding” him to try and cross the U.S. border without inspection.

In Florida, many of these otherwise average actions can be used against a person if a prosecutor decides to pursue a charge of alien smuggling, especially if they are not a U.S. citizen. Crimes such as transporting undocumented people across state lines, or harboring them (shielding them from the law), can be felonies on their own, but the crime of alien smuggling is both a felony for state law purposes and an aggravated felony for immigration purposes, carrying between 5 and 10 years in federal prison, plus a stiff fine.

Immigration & Criminal Consequences

A conviction for alien smuggling will generally land a person in prison, but if you are not a U.S. citizen yourself, it can also land you in hot water with immigration authorities. Alien smuggling is what is called an aggravated felony for immigration purposes, and aggravated felonies are offenses that Congress has designated as such because of their alleged low moral character. If you are convicted of an aggravated felony, you are automatically deportable, as well as receiving a permanent bar to admissibility in the future (in other words, if you wished to return, you would have to obtain a special waiver).

While the immigration consequences of an immigrant smuggling conviction are very severe, they can get worse in criminal court if you have engaged an attorney who does not understand the potential interplay between the two. For example, a criminal lawyer may plea-bargain a charge down to a lesser offense, thinking they have kept their client out of jail – but unless that lesser defense is not an aggravated felony, they have done nothing to keep their client where they belong, with their family. For smuggling cases, enlist a criminal defense attorney who understands the full picture.

Contact A West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

The current picture for immigrants in this country can be very intimidating, but you still have rights and you are entitled to your day in court. If you need assistance with an immigration-related criminal claim, contact the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A., and we will work hard for you. Contact our office today to speak to an attorney.




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