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Under federal laws, it is illegal to bring in or harbor illegal aliens in the United States. In Miami-Dade, Florida, we see a large amount of these cases due to out access to water ways and our proximity to the Caribbean and South America.

“Alien smuggling” is the term given to the act of assisting anyone in any way and at any time to enter the United States unlawfully, regardless of whether that person is a family member, or whether it was done for monetary gain. The Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) defines an alien smuggler as “[a]ny person who knowingly has encouraged, induced, assisted, abetted, or aided” any other person to enter or try to enter the United States illegally. The term is very broadly and has been interpreted to include sending money to someone to pay a smuggler, as well as merely encouraging someone to enter the United States illegally. The Defendant must know that they are helping someone enter illegally. If the Defendant was not aware that the other person did not have legal status to enter, the Defendant has not committed alien smuggling. Alien smuggling does not just cover professional smugglers; it also applies to people who bring in their family members. In Miami, Florida, many of these cases have some connection to watercrafts and the navigable waters of the United States. Many initial stops or arrests in these cases are done by the US Coast Guard.

“Alien Harboring” is any conduct that knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact than 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.

Under this federal law 8 U.S.C. § 1324, a defendant could be charged for:

  • Bringing, or attempting to bring, someone to the U.S. outside of a designated point-of-entry, despite knowing that person is an alien;
  • Transporting, moving, or attempting to transport or move someone who the Defendant knew had entered the U.S. illegally, or who Defendant should have known has entered the country illegally;
  • Concealing, harboring, or shielding an alien from detection, or attempting to shield an alien from detection, in a building or any vehicle despite knowing the alien entered the country in violation of U.S. immigration laws; or
  • Encouraging an alien to come to the U.S. or to reside in the U.S. despite knowing this will be a violation of the law.

Aiding or abetting any of these actions, or engaging in a conspiracy to commit any of these actions, can also result in criminal charges for harboring.

Under 8 USC § 1324, a federal statute regarding bringing in and harboring illegal aliens, states the actions that follow are illegal:

  1. Bringing an alien into the United States
  2. Transporting any illegal alien in the United States
  3. Harboring or hiding an illegal alien in the United States
  4. Encouraging or convincing someone to enter the United States illegally

Most commonly, people are charged under one of the two subsections of the 8 USC § 1324 statute. The first subsection, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A) prohibits bringing aliens in to the country, transporting them in the country, harboring them, encouraging them to enter the country illegally and a conspiracy to commit or help any one of the aforementioned acts. If you are convicted of any of the above-mentioned crimes without financial gain you can receive a maximum of 5 years in federal prison. The second subsection, 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(2), prohibits the same things as the first subsection, but the penalties it carries are different. Under this section when someone is brought into the country illegally and they are not presented to immigration officials a Defendant can be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. If there is the belief that the Defendant committed the offense for profit, they may be subject to a three-year mandatory prison sentence and a 10-year statutory maximum sentence.

Defenses Against Smuggling Charges

It is pertinent that you hire a criminal defense attorney if you are charged with a crime of this nature right away. The strategies and options a Defendant may have for a defense depend on the facts of each case. They also depend on whether or not the Defendant is a citizen they may face deportation. Other potential defense would involve analyzing at the admissibility of evidence in the case depend on whether there were any violations of the Fourth Amendment or under the Fifth Amendment. Another factor to consider is whether the Defendant was aware that you were breaking the law or if you simply lacked the knowledge and therefore the intent. It is important to remember that the prosecutors must prove each and every element of the crime before they can secure a conviction. If they cannot prove an element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, then a jury cannot convict the Defendant.

If you or a loved one is facing potential federal charges, contact the team at Concepcion Law today by calling [number] to schedule your appointment.