Understanding the Consequences of Aiding Undocumented Immigrants’ Entry Into the United States

by Raymond G. Lahoud, Esquire

For foreign nationals, interest in coming to the United States shows no sign of slowing down. As the process for doing so within the bounds of the law is time-consuming and complex, some individuals attempt to circumvent the law, either by venturing onto U.S. soil on their own or with the help of a smuggler—and sometimes the latter approach is encouraged by relatives already living in the United States.

Unfortunately, the mere act of attempting to help an undocumented immigrant enter the United States is illegal, regardless of whether the attempt is successful. The penalties can be severe, ranging from fines to significant prison time, particularly if someone is injured or killed in the attempt.


What constitutes “aiding”?

When alien smuggling makes the news, it’s often in the form of a vehicle full of undocumented immigrants being pulled over, or worse, being involved in a tragic accident. But under the law, assisting someone’s attempt to unlawfully enter the United States isn’t limited to actually transporting the individual yourself. It can also encompass hiring someone to engage in alien smuggling, either directly or indirectly, as well as providing false documents for an individual to use when attempting to enter the country.


Consequences of alien smuggling

Most immediately, being engaged in alien smuggling can lead to fines and incarceration, regardless of whether anyone successfully made it into the United States and regardless of whether the accused smuggler believes the action was justified. (It is possible to receive a limited waiver in the event that the person being smuggled is a spouse or child of the accused, or someone whose entry into the United States might be justified on humanitarian or public interest grounds.)

But given the fact that much alien smuggling is committed by those who are themselves in some stage of immigrating to the United States, it’s important to note that the consequences may go far beyond fines and prison. Being involved in alien smuggling can have a lasting and severe impact on whether or not a person can receive permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. In both situations, being convicted of alien smuggling results in being barred from becoming a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Furthermore, even without a conviction, a person found to have been involved in aiding the entry of undocumented individuals into the United States might actually be deported for doing so. Again, the relationship or justification may not matter.

If you or a loved one have been accused of trying to help an undocumented person enter the United States, it is critical that you seek the counsel of a qualified and experienced attorney. Consulting with a Pennsylvania immigration and deportation defense attorney at Baurkot & Baurkot can provide you with the information and assistance you need to defend yourself or your loved one. Reach out to our team today for answers to your questions, information about next steps and peace of mind.