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Practice Areas

Alien Smuggling Activities

Alien Smuggling involves the act of bringing or attempting to bring foreign nationals into the United States in order to contravene examination by immigration authorities. Alien smuggling also encompasses the domestic transporting of aliens unlawfully in the United States.

When is Best Time to Act?:

Often the subject of an alien smuggling investigation is not aware of the potential risk until it is too late, and they are arrested and placed in a detention facility. At this time, the alleged offender will most likely be forced to contend with removal/deportation proceedings and the underlying criminal offense. The complicated nature of these charges makes obtaining experienced immigration crimes defense counsel an imperative for reducing risk and increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.

Types of Crimes & Charges:

Alien smuggling activities can involve a range of conduct including smuggling aliens into the country, transporting unlawful aliens within the United States, harboring illegal aliens and conspiracy.

Criminal Schemes:

Criminal schemes related to alien smuggling generally constitute schemes involving parties and conduct occurring outside of the United States and with the assistance of parties within the United States. Alien smuggling operations generally solicit participants abroad in exchange for money and agree to smuggle foreign nationals into the United States.

Related Crimes:

The act of smuggling aliens can encompass a number of related offenses including:
• Domestic transportation of unauthorized aliens
• Concealing or harboring unauthorized aliens
• Encouraging or inducing unauthorized aliens to enter the United States, and
• Engaging in a conspiracy or aiding and abetting the violation of immigration laws.

Regulations/Legislation:

Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324(a) defines several distinct offenses related to aliens. Subsection 1324(a)(1)(i)-(v) prohibits alien smuggling, domestic transportation of unauthorized aliens, concealing or harboring unauthorized aliens, encouraging or inducing unauthorized aliens to enter the United States, and engaging in a conspiracy or aiding and abetting any of the preceding acts. Subsection 1324(a)(2) prohibits bringing or attempting to bring unauthorized aliens to the United States in any manner whatsoever, even at a designated port of entry. Subsection 1324(a)(3). Alien Smuggling — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(i) makes it an offense for any person who — knowing that a person is an alien, to bring to or attempts to bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever such person at a place other than a designated port of entry or place other than as designated by the Commissioner, regardless of whether such alien has received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States and regardless of any future official action which may be taken with respect to such alien. Domestic Transporting — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) makes it an offense for any person who — knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, transports, or moves or attempts to transport or move such alien within the United States by means of transportation or otherwise, in furtherance of such violation of law. Harboring — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) makes it an offense for any person who — knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation. Encouraging/Inducing — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) makes it an offense for any person who — encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law. Conspiracy/Aiding or Abetting — Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(v) expressly makes it an offense to engage in a conspiracy to commit or aid or abet the commission of the foregoing offenses. Bringing Aliens to the United States — Subsection 1324(a)(2) makes it an offense for any person who — knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has not received prior authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, to bring to or attempts to bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever, such alien, regardless of any official action which may later be taken with respect to such alien.

Penalties & Punishment:

Penalties — The basic statutory maximum penalty for violating 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(i) and (v)(I) (alien smuggling and conspiracy) is a fine under title 18, imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both. With regard to violations of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(ii)-(iv) and (v)(ii), domestic transportation, harboring, encouraging/inducing, or aiding/abetting, the basic statutory maximum term of imprisonment is 5 years, unless the offense was committed for commercial advantage or private financial gain, in which case the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years. In addition, significant enhanced penalties are provided for in violations of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1) involving serious bodily injury or placing life in jeopardy. Moreover, if the violation results in the death of any person, the defendant may be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years. The basic penalty for a violation of subsection 1324(a)(2) is a fine under title 18, imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2)(A). Enhanced penalties are provided for violations involving bringing in criminal aliens, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2)(B)(i), offenses done for commercial advantage or private financial gain, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii), and violations where the alien is not presented to an immigration officer immediately upon arrival, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2)(B)(iii). A mandatory minimum three year term of imprisonment applies to first or second violations of § 1324(a)(2)(B)(i) or (B)(ii). Further enhanced punishment is provided for third or subsequent offenses.

Successful Defense:

Prosecutions for alien smuggling, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(i) require proof that defendant knew that the person brought to the United States was an alien. With regard to the other violations in 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a), proof of knowledge or reckless disregard of alienage is sufficient.
High Profile/ Govt. cases:

Federal prosecution data indicates that over 2,000 alien smuggling convictions are obtained under 8 U.S.C. § 1324 annually. Enforcement activity against smuggling has increased under the Obama administration which will likely drive the number of prosecutions upward.