What is the Punishment for Harboring Illegal Immigrants?

US Border Patrol booth at night

What is the punishment for harboring illegal immigrants? Harboring illegal immigrants is one of many federal alien smuggling crimes, for which good people can find themselves in serious trouble — and do serious jail time as a result. 

Whether you were offering humanitarian aid to someone or you intended to make them an employee, tenant, or houseguest, if you’re found to be harboring an illegal immigrant on your property, you could be guilty of a federal crime. 

If you or a loved one has been accused of harboring illegal immigrants in Texas, you don’t need just any criminal defense attorney, you need a human smuggling attorney with experience taking cases to trial, arguing in a federal court, and winning

Javier Guzman is that attorney. He is a federal criminal lawyer with experience building iron defenses to complex crimes and a track record of defending his clients’ rights. Call Javier today at (956) 516-7198 to discuss your case and begin defending your freedom. 

What is the US code for harboring aliens?

The harboring illegal immigrants laws actually exist at both federal and state levels. The federal statute that contains federal alien smuggling charges is Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324, which defines the crime of alien harboring thusly:

  • Knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that 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.

So, whether you’re in your truck or your house, if you are believed to be knowingly concealing, harboring, or shielding an alien from detection, you will likely be charged with alien harboring which is a federal crime. 

Federal alien smuggling charges

There are other ways to be charged with federal alien smuggling crimes, all of which Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324 lays out in plain language. A person also commits a federal alien smuggling offense by doing the following:

  • Alien smuggling is essentially the base charge for the federal statute. Under Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324, it is an offense to bring to or attempt to bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever an illegal alien at a place other than a designated port of entry, regardless of whether such alien has received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States.
  • Domestic transporting makes it a crime to transport, move or attempt to transport or move someone you know to be an alien within the United States.
  • Encouraging or inducing such aliens to come to the United States is also a violation of this statute.
  • Conspiring, aiding, or abetting the commission of the previous offenses is also a crime. 

Not only can you not smuggle, transport, or aid someone in their relocation to the U.S. or their relocation within the U.S., but you cannot encourage, incentivize, or induce them to do so. Something as simple as telling a family member that they have a place to stay with you in Laredo might be grounds enough to charge you for a federal crime. 

These things are taken seriously in Texas, where suspicious border patrol agents have immense power, and overzealous prosecutors are often looking to make examples out of immigration arrests. 

Smuggling of persons charges in Texas

Although it used to be that only federal agencies were concerned with smuggling crimes, Texas has recently taken a renewed interest and has begun prosecuting these cases aggressively. 

Texas Penal Code § 20.05 details the crime of “smuggling of persons,” which is essentially another alien smuggling charge that can be brought against offenders on the state level in Texas. Under this statute, it is illegal to:

  • Transport an individual with the intent to conceal them from a peace officer or special investigator or flee from a person the actor knows to be a peace officer or special investigator; or
  • encourage or induce a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection; or
  • assist, guide, or direct two or more individuals to enter or remain on agricultural land without the effective consent of the owner.

These crimes may look similar to the federal ones, but the important thing to remember is that you can be charged with crimes at the federal and state level simultaneously! You need a criminal federal lawyer that understands the complexity of human smuggling charges and has experience working at both the federal and state level. 

What is the punishment for smuggling illegals?

How much time do you get for smuggling immigrants? Penalties for harboring illegal immigrants are uniformly steep but can become even steeper depending on a few aggravating factors.

Penalties for harboring illegal immigrants at the federal level

Is bringing in or harboring certain aliens a felony? Under the federal statute, all alien smuggling offenses are felony crimes with specific punishments as follows:

Maximum fineMaximum prison time
Federal alien smuggling charges$250,0005 years
Federal alien smuggling charges if acting for profit$250,00010 years
Federal alien smuggling charges involving serious bodily injury$250,00020 years
Federal alien smuggling charges involving death$250,000Life in prison

Penalties for harboring illegal immigrants at the state level

Under Texas Penal Code § 20.05, committing smuggling of persons offense will result in the following:

  • Third-degree felony if no aggravating factors are present.
  • Second-degree felony if:
    • the offense creates a substantial likelihood that the smuggled individual will suffer serious bodily injury or death; or
    • the smuggled individual is a child younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offense; or
    • the offense was committed for monetary gain; or
    • during the commission of the offense, the actor or another party to the offense knowingly possessed a firearm.
  • First-degree felony if:
    • as a direct result of the commission of the offense, the smuggled individual became a victim of sexual assault; or
    • the smuggled individual suffered serious bodily injury or death.

Because most people committing alien smuggling offenses are not human traffickers, there are allowances for affirmative defenses related to smuggling blood relatives and immediate family — but this does not mean you will be treated fairly. To ensure that your rights and the rights of your family members are protected, you need an alien smuggling lawyer to build your defense. 

Charged with harboring illegal immigrants? Federal trial lawyer Javier Guzman can help.

So, what is the punishment for harboring illegal immigrants? Felony charges for harboring illegal immigrants carry penalties that are steep across the board and are prosecuted aggressively by both state and federal courts across Texas. 

Javier Guzman is much more than a Texas DWI attorney — he is a relentless federal lawyer representing the last line of defense for his clients. He has dedicated his life to serving the people of Laredo and Texas at large. Unlike many criminal lawyers, Javier has the experience and dedication to take complex cases to trial and win them. 

Call Guzman Law Firm today at (956) 516-7198 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. 

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