What Are Federal Immigration Crimes?
There are many ways for the Government to charge immigration crimes. Most involve fraud, failure to leave, or improper entry. The most common alleged offenses include the following:
- Alien hindering removal: failing to leave the U.S. within a required removal period, not taking steps to secure travel arrangements, conspiring to prevent departure, and/or failing to present oneself for removal at the time and place required by the Attorney General.
- Bringing in and harboring illegal aliens: knowingly or recklessly bringing or attempting to bring an alien into the U.S. who has not received prior authorization, or harboring such an alien.
- Improper entry by alien: entering or attempting to enter the U.S. at any other time or place than as designated by immigration officers, eluding examination or inspection by immigration officers, or entering or attempting to enter the U.S. by deception.
- Marriage fraud: entering into a marriage for the purpose of evading immigration laws. For example, to obtain residency or a Green Card.
- Re-entry by deported alien: an alien denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed and thereafter enters, attempts to enter, or is found in the U.S. without authorization or consent by the Attorney General.
- Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents: forging or altering immigration documents for entry or authorized stay or employment in the U.S., impersonating another to evade immigration laws, or making a false statement on an immigration document.
What is the punishment for federal immigration crimes?
Immigration crimes are punished as misdemeanors punishable up to one year in prison, or felonies punishable up to many years in prison and other permanent consequences:
- 8 U.S. Code § 1253 – Alien hindering removal is punishable by fine up to $250,000 and up to 4 years imprisonment.
- 8 U.S. Code § 1306 – Penalties for alien registration violations include a fine up to $1,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months for failure to register and fraudulent statements in application for registration, and fine up to $200 and imprisonment up to 30 days for failing to notify the Attorney General of change of address
- 8 U.S. Code § 1324 – Bringing in and harboring illegal aliens is punishable up to 10 years imprisonment for the first or second offense if there is intent or reason to believe the alien will commit a felony, if done for purposes of commercial gain, or an offense which the alien is not presented to immigration authorities. 5 to 15 years for subsequent violations. A court may also order a convicted smuggler to pay restitution if the illegal alien smuggled qualifies as a victim under the Victim and Witness Protection Act.
- 8 U.S. Code § 1325(a) – Improper entry by an alien is punishable by fine and up to 6 months imprisonment for the first offense, and up to 2 years imprisonment for a subsequent offense.
- 8 U.S .Code § 1325(c) – Marriage fraud is punishable by fine up to $250,000 and imprisonment up to 5 years.
- 8 U.S. Code § 1326 – Re-entry of deported alien is punishable by fine and up to 2 years imprisonment. If such an alien re-enters without U.S. approval, after a criminal felony conviction for a non-aggravated felony, or after three or more violations for drug-related crimes or crimes aggravated felony, it is punishable up to 20 years imprisonment.
- 18 U.S. Code § 1546 – Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents is punishable up to 10 years imprisonment for the first or second offense if not committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism or drug trafficking crime, 20 years if committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime, 25 years if committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism, or 15 years in the case of any other offense. Furthermore, once convicted, the offender is permanently barred from receiving any immigration benefits.
What is an aggravated felony, and how does it affect immigration?
“Aggravated felony” is a label that the government uses to justify expedited deportation. 8 U.S. Code 1101(a)(43) defines “aggravated felony” by providing a long list of offenses that the label applies to. Nearly every kind of felony is on the list, so the word “aggravated” does not necessarily mean that the felony is more serious. If convicted of one of these offenses, it means deportation becomes a priority. No bond hearing or other kind of hearing will be provided. An immigration judge cannot cancel deportation. There can be no return to the U.S., and if convicted of illegal re-entry after deportation for aggravated felony, the sentence goes up to 20 years imprisonment.