Harboring illegal immigrants is a federal crime for which everyday people can find themselves doing serious jail time for “just trying to help”, but what constitutes harboring? Is it illegal to help an illegal immigrant, or does harboring mean specifically housing an illegal immigrant?
Harboring is one of many common human smuggling charges in Texas, where border security is taken very seriously and offenders are prosecuted aggressively in Federal courts. All human smuggling charges require experienced federal lawyers who are familiar with the unforgiving immigration laws.
The Texas federal attorneys at Flanary Law Firm have experience fighting alien smuggling charges and building defenses in complex, high-stakes cases. Call Flanary Law Firm today at (210) 738-8383 for expert representation.
What is alien harboring?
Is it illegal to provide housing to illegal immigrants? Is it illegal to simply drive them where they’re trying to go? Yes, it is. Committing an alien harboring offense is defined by Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324 as:
- Any person “who 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.”
Committing a harboring offense can take place in any building or any means of transportation, as long as the person committing the offense knowingly conceals, harbors, or shields the alien from detection. Whether you are stopped while driving with an alien who is in the U.S. in violation of the law, or a Texas search warrant turned them up on your property, if you had knowledge of their situation, you may be in trouble.
If you or a loved one was just trying to help and ended up unwittingly helping fugitives from justice, you need an immigration attorney in Texas at your side to ensure that your story is told in a federal court.
Other types of human smuggling charges
The statutory definitions of the other human smuggling offenses laid out in Title 8 § 1324 include:
Committing an alien smuggling offense is defined under Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324 as:
Any person who “knowing that a person is an alien, to bring to or attempts to bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever such person at a place other than a designated port of entry or place other than as designated by the Commissioner, regardless of whether such alien has received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States and regardless of any future official action which may be taken with respect to such alien.”
Essentially, this charge is for physically bringing someone without authorization to do so across the border.
Committing a domestic transporting offense is defined under Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324 as:
Any person who “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, transports, or moves or attempts to transport or move such alien within the United States by means of transportation or otherwise, in furtherance of such violation of the law.”
Transportation of an illegal alien that does not cross an international border is still considered alien smuggling.
Encouraging or inducing
Encouraging and inducing offenses are defined under Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324 as:
“Any person who encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.”
Convincing or influencing an alien to cross the border of their own power is considered another form of human smuggling, even if you never transport or harbor them.
Conspiracy, aiding and abetting
Conspiracy, aiding and abetting offenses are defined under Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324 as:
“Any person who engages in a conspiracy to commit or aid or abet the commission of the foregoing offenses.”
So you can not only not bring across, transport within, or encourage one to cross the border, but you cannot engage in a conspiracy to do so.
Smuggling of persons
Alien harboring is defined by, Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324, which is a federal statute, but there also exists a provision in Texas Penal Code § 20.05 that outlines the crime of “smuggling of persons,” which is vastly different from the federal alien harboring statute.
Under Texas § 20.05 a person commits a “smuggling of persons” offense if they:
- use a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or other means of conveyance to transport an individual with the intent to:
- conceal the individual from a peace officer or special investigator; or
- flee from a person the actor knows is a peace officer or special investigator attempting to lawfully arrest or detain the actor;
- 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.
Essentially, under the Texas Penal Code, you must intentionally encourage or induce them and actively harbor or shield them, actively encouraging them to break federal immigration laws and conceal them from detection. Arguably, under Texas law, you’re allowed to drive around a truckful of illegal aliens in broad daylight, as long as it couldn’t be said that you were hiding them.
It is of course possible to be charged for crimes in federal and state courts concurrently. Alien smuggling was once largely a federal crime, but state prosecutions for the smuggling of persons are now more common than ever.
How long do you go to jail for smuggling immigrants?
What is the charge for bringing illegal immigrants to Texas? The penalties for all human smuggling charges, which include the penalty for housing illegal immigrants, are steep no matter the circumstances. The following chart illustrates the possible penalties for a first-offense violation of the federal harboring statute.
|Not acting for profit||Up to $250,000||Up to 5 years|
|Acting for profit||Up to $250,000||Up to 10 years|
|Involving serious bodily injury||Up to $250,000||Up to 20 years|
|Involving death||Up to $250,000||Up to life in prison|
It doesn’t matter if it was your first-time alien smuggling, the penalties are uniformly steep. Penalties will be more severe if you were harboring illegal immigrants for profit or contributed to a person’s serious bodily injury or death.
Accused of harboring illegal immigrants? Contact the Texas human smuggling lawyers at Flanary Law Firm
The laws on harboring illegal immigrants are unforgiving. Whether you were just trying to help or unknowingly employed an illegal alien on your property, you could be in big trouble. Federal immigration laws are enforced with enthusiasm and aggression in Texas, and you’ll need a lawyer who can match it.
Donald Flanary is a compassionate and creative defender of the law. He has experience defending those accused of immigration crimes in a federal court and working with the myriad of federal agencies that are often involved in immigration cases.