While immigration laws are put in place in order to help control the influx of people to a country, and while nearly all nations in the world have them, US immigration law is one of the most controversial. This is largely due to a history of exclusionary, near-xenophobic laws that are now much more inclusive and easier to understand. That doesn’t mean that anyone can enter the country whenever they choose, however, and there are still immigration laws that must be followed. Those who come into the country illegally and those who assist them in entering are both at risk of criminal charges.
US immigration law changed significantly after the events of 9-11, and in particular the methods used to enforce those offenses. The country still allows over 1 million aliens to become citizens, but there are many living in the country illegally. Those who are doing so are already breaking immigration laws, and even those who are US citizens who assisted the immigrant could face charges in some cases. Usually, immigration offenses are noticed when another crime has occurred. In these cases, crimes as simple as a DUI could lead to deportation and possibly other penalties.
Laws related to immigration include the actual entry into the country illegally, living here for any time, assisting others in crossing the border, and more. In short, anything related to crossing into the country without a passport or other required documents could lead to immigration offenses.
However, it is important to understand that if you are charged with a crime and aren’t a legal US resident, you are still protected under the same rights as a citizen. This includes the right to bail, the right to have a speedy and public trial, the right to avoid double jeopardy, and the right to legal representation.
Immigration Crimes and Charges
The US immigration laws are often said to be more complicated than the tax codes so many struggle with every year. They’re easily misunderstood, and very complex due to the huge number of potential situations that can influence citizenship and more.
Under Title 8, Section 1325 of the US Code, illegal immigration is described clearly. Anyone who meets one of the following points is considered to be in violation of immigration laws.
- Anyone who has eluded examination by immigration agents
- Anyone who attempts to enter or who does enter the US through false representation or willful concealment of facts
- Anyone who enters or who tries to enter the US anywhere or at any time other than at designated locations and times set forth by immigration agents.
Under the law, violators can be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail for the first offense. Any subsequent offenses will lead to 2 years in prison, and fines may exist as well. Also, deportation will be used as well in order to remove the illegal immigrant from the country. In many cases, prison time is waived in favor of deportation, though the nature of the crime will have an influence on the punishment. Additionally, those who are found guilty of another crime could face sentencing from that crime as well.
The specific circumstances surrounding a person’s arrest could influence the punishment they face. As mentioned above, when a person is arrested for another crime and then found to be in violation of immigration laws, they could be charged and punished for the main criminal offense before being charged with immigration crimes. The punishment could vary to great degree as a result.
As for immigration law punishment itself, in most cases deportation will usually be the main form of punishment – especially for first offenders. Under law, up to 6 months in jail could be a first-time offender’s punishment, but this is usually ignored in favor of deportation. However, second and subsequent offenses will often be punished as a felony. As a result, longer prison times of up to 2 years could be possible, followed by deportation.
Immigration Sentencing Guidelines
Judges who sentence immigration offenders will look at a number of factors including previous offenses and presence of other crimes in addition to the immigration violation when they hand down sentences of this nature.
Immigration Statute of Limitations
There is no statute of limitations for immigration offenses. If one is found to be in the country illegally, it doesn’t matter how long they have lived in the country – they will still face criminal proceedings.
Illegal immigration isn’t a crime that creates many well-known stories due in large part to the ‘blue collar’ nature of the crime. What gets more attention is the way immigration is enforced. As mentioned above, Arizona and Alabama have both found themselves the center of media attention for their strict laws against immigration.
Immigration Laws by State
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming