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What are the penalties for harboring an undocumented immigrant?

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Texas citizens who knowingly and willfully harbor, transport or hire undocumented immigrants can face severe penalties ranging from five years to life in prison if convicted.

Federal law forbids U.S. citizens from encouraging, aiding, transporting or inducing undocumented immigrants to enter or remain in the United States illegally.

Federal charges for immigration-related violations

Some of the more common offenses related to undocumented immigrants include:

  • Harboring: Concealing, housing or offering support.
  • Smuggling: Bringing or arranging transport.
  • Transporting: Physically helping immigrants cross the border.
  • Encouragement/inducement: Offering support of any kind.
  • Illegal hiring: Recruiting or hiring an undocumented immigrant.
  • Illegal re-entry: Helping a deported individual cross back into the U.S.
  • Marriage fraud: Marrying a noncitizen to evade immigration laws.

Proving these charges requires four elements

Prosecutors often cite the Immigration and Nationality Act when bringing these cases against U.S. citizens. However, they must prove:

  1. The defendant acted illegally by committing or attempting to commit any of the above acts.
  2. The noncitizen was in the U.S. illegally.
  3. The defendant knew and recklessly disregarded the fact that the noncitizen was in the country unlawfully.
  4. The defendant knowingly and willfully aided the noncitizen in violating U.S. laws.

Defending against immigration-related offenses

It is advisable to immediately contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney if you are arrested or under investigation for charges related to undocumented individuals violating U.S. immigration laws.

Helping an individual without a valid green card isn’t a crime if you are unaware of their immigration status. A lawyer with substantial knowledge handling these cases can help individuals avoid charges, get offenses dismissed or receive reduced penalties.