Texas has the nation’s longest shared border with Mexico, making it a prime location for illegal alien smuggling. Every day, federal law enforcement authorities in Texas apprehend and charge individuals with alien smuggling, a serious crime with potentially severe consequences.
If authorities have charged you or a loved one with illegal alien smuggling in Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and defend your freedom. Contact Kenny Perez Law immediately for a free consultation with a member of our team.
What is illegal alien smuggling?
Under federal law, the crime known as “illegal alien smuggling” consists of:
- While knowing that a person is an alien (i.e., not a U.S. citizen or national), bringing or attempting to bring that alien into the United States at any location other than an official border entry point or other location authorized by the federal government (even if that alien would otherwise have permission to enter the United States).
- While knowing or recklessly disregarding that a person is an alien not lawfully present in the United States, transporting or moving, or attempting to transport or move, that alien anywhere within the borders of the United States in furtherance of the alien’s continued illegal presence in the country.
- While knowing or recklessly disregarding the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, concealing, harboring, or shielding from detection, or attempting to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, that alien in any place, including in any building or by any means of transportation.
- Encouraging or inducing an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, while knowingly or recklessly disregarding the fact that the alien coming to, entering, or residing in the United States is or will violate the law.
- Conspiring, aiding, or abetting in the commission of any of the acts above.
Courts interpret federal criminal statutes relating to illegal alien smuggling broadly.
As a result, the federal government may charge you with a crime if you:
- Drive illegal aliens in a car, truck, or bus;
- Assist illegal aliens at any point of their illegal border crossing, such as leading them through border areas on foot;
- Pay someone to bring aliens into the United States illegally;
- Give illegal aliens money, food, or a place to stay;
- Encourage or help an alien plan to come to the United States illegally;
- Hire illegal aliens to work in your Texas-based business.
You do not need to have received money to be charged with illegal alien smuggling.
In fact, although financial gain is a factor in some illegal alien smuggling cases, many individuals get charged with alien smuggling when they help friends or family members in illegal border crossings or to remain in the United States illegally. They may also attempt to bring in members of their own family to reunite them or help them.
In fact, according to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), 71.3 percent of individuals convicted of alien smuggling in a recent year were American citizens, and 60.8 percent had no previous criminal history.
Illegal alien smuggling is a federal crime, but law enforcement officers at any level of government—local, state, or federal—can arrest and hold an individual on suspicion of illegal alien smuggling. Federal courts in the border areas of Texas, including El Paso rank among the most active in the country for illegal alien smuggling cases.
Potential penalties for illegal alien smuggling
Illegal alien smuggling is a felony.
Depending upon the circumstances of the crime, an individual convicted of illegal alien smuggling may face punishment that includes:
- Deportation (if the person convicted is not a U.S. citizen).
Federal law mandates a separate punishment for each illegal act and each alien assisted in the commission of the crime. So, for example, if someone transports three illegal aliens away from the border to a safe house, they may face punishment for six separate offenses —one transportation-based offense for each alien involved, and one harboring offense for each alien involved.
The probability of receiving a prison sentence is relatively high if you are convicted of illegal alien smuggling. According to the USSC, in a recent year courts sentenced 84.1 percent of individuals convicted of illegal alien smuggling to prison. The average sentence was 13 months. Sentences and other penalties for illegal alien smuggling tend to rise if the crime involved financial gain, risk of injury, actual injury, fatality, or sex trafficking.
Texas law regarding smuggling of persons
Although officials typically prosecute illegal alien smuggling as a federal crime, Texas state law also prohibits conduct that could fall within the broad definition of alien smuggling.
Under the Texas Smuggling of Persons Act, it is a felony punishable by fines and imprisonment to transport people to conceal them from law enforcement or with the intent to flee from law enforcement. (The law also makes it a crime to encourage or induce a person to enter or remain in the country in violation of federal law, although the constitutionality of that provision is somewhat doubtful.) Thus, even if federal prosecutors decline to prosecute a case of illegal alien smuggling under federal law, state prosecutors may nevertheless choose to charge a violation of the Texas statute.
Are you charged with smuggling illegal aliens?
If law enforcement officials at any level—local, state, or federal—have charged you with a crime involving smuggling of illegal aliens, or have told you that you are the subject of an investigation involving that crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side immediately. Your rights, future, and freedom are at risk.
Do not wait to secure the representation of a skilled, experienced illegal alien smuggling defense attorney. Contact the Kenny Perez Law immediately for a free consultation. You can reach us by phone at (956) 544-9292 or contact us online.