What is the Punishment for Crossing the Border Illegally?

Silhouette of two people crossing through a barbed fence.

We’ve done a bit of writing about the penalties associated with human smuggling charges in Texas (or the punishment for bringing people across the border illegally), but what is the punishment for crossing the border illegally of your own volition? 

Crossing the border illegally, just like smuggling aliens across the border, is a complex crime that can carry harsh and compounding penalties. Texas is tough on immigration, which means that individuals found to be attempting to cross the border illegally will be prosecuted zealously, and you can’t expect the border patrol to just drop you off and let you go. 

Javier Guzman is much more than an immigration lawyer in Laredo TX, he’s a trial lawyer that has experience fighting for his clients’ rights and winning complex cases in a court of law. If you or a loved one has been arrested under suspicion of crossing the border illegally, call Guzman Law Firm at (956) 516-7198 today.

What happens if you cross the U.S. border illegally?

What happens if you get caught crossing the border? The laws surrounding Improper Entry into the U.S. are found in 8 U.S. Code § 1325, as well as the Immigration and Nationality Act. They outline what constitutes crossing the border illegally, as well as the punishments associated with doing so.

The federal statute outlines two important terms: Unlawful Entry, and Unlawful Presence. 

Unlawful Entry

A person is considered to have unlawfully or improperly entered the U.S. if they:

  • Enter the U.S. at a location with no immigration officers present, or at a non-designated point of entry
  • Enter the U.S. without being examined or inspected by immigration officers
  • Enter the U.S. based on false information or falsified documents
  • Enter the U.S. while knowingly concealing facts or materials

Unlawful entry can therefore include physically crossing the border at a non-sanctioned location or falsifying information on a visa application.

Unlawful Presence 

What happens if you live in the U.S. illegally? Whether you entered the U.S. legally or illegally, remaining in the U.S. after your visa has expired or after entering unlawfully is a federal crime. 

People who were illegally brought to the U.S. as a minor, who were the victims of abuse or trafficking, or who applied for extensions of stay may be exempt from punishment for Unlawful Presence — although to know for sure you will need a federal criminal attorney. 

Is crossing the border illegally a felony or misdemeanor? 

Crossing the border illegally is not only a felony, but it is a federal crime. Not just any attorney will be able to argue a complex case of this nature in front of a federal court; federal crimes require specialized lawyers with unique sets of expertise and experience taking high-stakes cases to trial. The punishments for crossing the border illegally are as follows:

  • First offenses for crossing the border illegally can result in fines and imprisonment for up to six months
  • Subsequent offenses for crossing the border illegally can result in fines and imprisonment for up to two years
  • Re-entry after conviction for three or more misdemeanors can result in fines and imprisonment for up to ten years
  • Re-entry after conviction for an aggravated felony can result in fines and imprisonment for up to twenty years

Charges for alien smuggling across the border

The other major charge for crossing a border is the smuggling of people or alien smuggling. A person commits an alien smuggling offense if they:

  • Bring, or attempt to bring, someone into the U.S. outside of a designated entry point, despite knowing that person is an alien.
  • Transport, move, or attempt to transport or move someone you know who has entered the U.S. illegally, or who they should know has entered the country illegally.
  • Conceal, harbor, or shield an alien from detection, or attempt to shield an alien from detection.
  • Encourage 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. 

In addition to harboring illegal immigrants, you can also be charged with human smuggling for aiding and abetting the harboring of illegal immigrants or conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants. The punishments for an alien smuggling charge are as follows:

  • If you do not act for profit, you can be fined and imprisoned for up to five years
  • If you act for profit, you can be fined and imprisoned for up to ten years.

The penalties for alien smuggling are steep, and the laws governing them are complex. It is not uncommon for charges to be brought against a defendant in both state and federal courts for harboring illegal immigrants. 

Punishments for crossing the border illegally are steep and require a top federal lawyer to fight. 

Whether you’re facing punishment for crossing the border illegally, consequences of remaining in the U.S. illegally, or charges for alien smuggling, you’ll need an experienced and aggressive federal attorney if you want to hold on to your freedom. You need a trusted criminal defense attorney in Laredo, TX on speed dial before the prosecutors have ironed out their case. 

Javier Guzman offers relentless defense for complex federal and state charges. He doesn’t quit, no matter the circumstances or how high the stakes are. If you need passionate, thorough criminal defense, you need to call Javier at (956) 516-7198 or contact Guzman Law Firm online for a consultation today.

 More Helpful Articles by Guzman Law Firm: