In the complex world of immigration law, many don’t understand the consequences of aiding and abetting an illegal alien in Texas. The Lone Star State is a state known for its tough immigration policies, so it is important for anyone who has been charged with human smuggling, working with, or assisting undocumented immigrants to be aware of the potential repercussions — even if you were just trying to help someone.
Under Texas law, a person who aids or abets an illegal alien can be charged under either Texas Penal Code § 20.05 or §8 USC 1324. It is also illegal to transport, encourage, or induce an individual to come into the state if they are not lawfully allowed to do so. Aiding and abetting an illegal alien in Texas is a felony charge that carries up to ten years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 if you are working for profit.
In this article Javier Guzman, an experienced Laredo federal defense attorney and founding attorney of Guzman Law, discusses the penalties associated with aiding and abetting undocumented immigrants in Texas. He will also explain the necessary steps to take if one is facing such charges.
What is aiding and abetting an undocumented immigrant?
In Texas, you commit an aiding and abetting offense if you knowingly harbor an illegal immigrant, transport or attempt to move someone who you know has entered the U.S. illegally, or if you encourage or induce an individual to enter or remain in the country unlawfully. This could look like:
- Renting a room or apartment to an undocumented immigrant
- Knowingly hiring someone without legal status
- Providing false documentation for someone who is in the country unlawfully
- Aiding in any type of human smuggling activities
The penalties for human smuggling offenses are uniformly severe, often involving substantial fines and mandatory imprisonment. It’s important to note that both Texas and Federal courts prosecute aiding and abetting very aggressively, emphasizing their commitment to enforcing immigration laws. Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone who may interact with undocumented immigrants in any capacity.
How is aiding and abetting different from human smuggling charges?
Aiding and abetting an undocumented immigrant in Texas is classified under human smuggling laws, as a type of human smuggling charge. The federal statute defines conspiracy, aiding and abetting as engaging in a conspiracy to commit or aid or abet the commission of the offenses of:
- Alien smuggling, which is the physical act of entry
- Harboring, which is the concealment of persons from detection
- Domestic transporting, which is any movement within the country
- Encouraging or inducing persons to cross the border of their own volition
Aiding and abetting can encompass an even broader range of activities than these, as it includes providing any form of assistance to undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. This could involve providing employment or false documents, and many other activities which do not necessarily involve transportation across borders or direct involvement in their unlawful entry into the country.
Penalties for aiding and abetting an illegal alien
Penalties for human smuggling, including federal charges for aiding and abetting an illegal alien in Texas, can result in severe consequences that include fines of up to $250,000 and a maximum of ten years in prison if you are working for profit. Alternatively, if you are not working for profit and are transporting, harboring, or concealing aliens, you can be fined up to $250,000 and spend a maximum of five years in prison.
If you are prosecuted under the Texas statute for smuggling of persons, you will be looking at felony charges that come with 2 – 20 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.
It is also important to note that a conviction for aiding and abetting can lead to deportation proceedings and could result in them being branded as a fugitive from justice, even if the individual has legal status in the U.S. This means that individuals who are not yet citizens but still living lawfully in the country can still face deportation if convicted of aiding and abetting an illegal alien.
Additional consequences for employers who hire undocumented workers
The punishments for hiring illegal immigrants are a bit less severe. Under 8 U.S. Code § 1324a, employers who hire undocumented workers can face fines of up to $3,000 per individual.
Additionally, the employer is given ten days to terminate employment with said employee(s). After this time, employers who are found to be “willfully” or “knowingly” employing illegal aliens can face steeper fines of $16,000 per undocumented worker.
Employers should also note that they can be held liable for aiding and abetting if they have knowingly transported, sheltered, or provided false documents to undocumented immigrants, even if there was no intent to employ them.
What to do if you are charged with aiding and abetting an undocumented immigrant
If you find yourself charged with aiding and abetting an undocumented immigrant, it is crucial to take the following steps:
- Remain Silent: Do not provide any information or statements to law enforcement without legal representation present. You have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning.
- Find an Attorney: As soon as possible, find a criminal defense attorney who understands immigration consequences. Look for someone who focuses on immigration law and federal defense and has experience with cases regarding the smuggling of persons in Texas. Ask about their track record, their approach to your kind of case, and their fees.
- Understand the Charges: Work with your attorney to understand the charges against you. Ask them to explain the specific laws you’ve allegedly broken and what the prosecution will need to prove to secure a conviction.
- Collect Evidence: Help your attorney collect evidence to build your defense. This could include any communication records, witness testimonies, or other relevant documents.
- Prepare for Court: Along with your attorney, prepare to defend your case in court. This might include practicing answering potential questions, understanding court procedures, and developing a strong defense strategy.
Remember, handling a charge of aiding and abetting an illegal alien can be complex and stressful. Having a qualified and experienced immigration attorney by your side is key to navigating this challenging process.
Human smuggling laws are tough. Guzman Law Firm is tougher.
The Texas state government is serious about prosecuting those who attempt to assist undocumented immigrants whether it’s via aiding and abetting an illegal alien, transporting immigrants, or employing undocumented workers.
The state attorney general’s office has been increasingly aggressive in issuing warnings and filing criminal charges against individuals and organizations for facilitating illegal immigration as of late. Additionally, the Border Patrol has increased its presence in communities known to have large populations of undocumented immigrants in order to deter anyone from aiding or abetting an undocumented immigrant.
If you’re facing human smuggling charges of any kind, Javier Guzman can help you navigate the complex legal system and fight to protect your rights. Our committed team is dedicated to providing you with the highest quality legal counsel in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Whether you’re facing punishment for crossing the border illegally or have been slapped with a transporting illegal immigrants in Texas charge, Javier Guzman can help. Call Guzman Law Firm at (956) 333-3977 or contact us online today to schedule a consultation.
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