Harboring Aliens

8 U.S. Code § 1324 - Bringing in and Harboring Certain Aliens

Millions of immigrants attempt to enter the United States illegally every year. Under federal law, assisting or harboring undocumented immigrants in the United States is a crime. Title 8 U.S. Code 1324 defines various scenarios when bringing in and harboring aliens violates federal law.

To help address the massive problem of illegal immigration, Congress established a comprehensive anti-human smuggling law that specifically targets people who help immigrants cross international American borders. It also addresses people who enter our harbors illegally and anyone who helps them remain in the United States.

8 U.S. Code § 1324 - Bringing in and Harboring Certain Aliens
It's a federal offenses to harbor, assist, or transport aliens entering the United States illegally.

8 U.S.C. 1324 says, “(1) (A) Any person who (i) knowing that a person is an alien, brings 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….”

(ii) 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 law….”

To be convicted of violating federal human smuggling laws, prosecutors must prove that you knew the person was not a U.S. citizen or that you recklessly disregarded the truth about their citizenship.

You could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted under this law. Let's review this federal law in more detail below.

Breaking Down Title 8 U.S.C. 1324

8 U.S.C. 1324 outlines numerous crimes that involve assisting, transporting, or harboring aliens entering the United States illegally. For example, under this federal statute law, it's a federal crime for any of the following actions:

  • 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(i) makes it a crime to smuggle aliens into the United States by any entry place other than a legal entry point;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) prohibits transporting by any means unauthorized aliens inside the country, knowing they entered illegally;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) makes it a crime to knowingly harbor, shield knowingly, or conceal an unauthorized alien, including providing shelter, food, finances;  
  • 8 U.S.C 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) prohibits encouraging aliens to enter the United States illegally, including persuading them to cross the border;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(v) prohibits conspiring with others to bring in aliens illegally or aiding and abetting with others, for financial gain or not;
  • 8 U.S.C 1324(a)(2) makes it a federal crime to knowingly bring any unauthorized alien into the country at any point or by any means.
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(3)(A) prohibits hiring unauthorized aliens. It's a crime for any employer to knowingly employ ten or more unauthorized aliens within 12 months.

What Are the Related Statutes?

8 U.S. Code Part VIII general penalty provisions have numerous federal statutes that are related to Title 8 U.S. Code 1324, including the following:

  • 8 U.S.C. 1321 – preventing the unauthorized landing of aliens;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1322 - bringing in aliens for healthcare purposes;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1323 - unlawful bringing of aliens into the United States;
  • 8 U.S.C 1324b - unfair immigration-related employment practices;
  • 8 U.S.C 1324c - penalties for document fraud;
  • 8 U.S.C 1324d - civil penalties for failure to depart;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1325 - improper entry by the alien;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1326 - reentry of removed aliens;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1327 - aiding or assisting certain aliens to enter;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1328 - importation of alien for immoral purpose;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1329 - jurisdiction of the district courts;
  • 8 U.S.C. 1330 – a collection of penalties and expenses.

What Are the Penalties for 8 U.S.C. 1324?

The different crimes defined under this federal law will vary depending on the case details. However, most violations are felony crimes carrying fines, jail time, and enhancements, such as the following:

  • Up to one year in prison for bringing in an unauthorized alien;
  • Up to five years for illegally transporting an alien;
  • Up to five years for hiring ten or more undocumented aliens;
  • Up to ten years for bringing in an alien for financial gain;
  • Up to 10 years for smuggling an alien into the country illegally;
  • Up to 20 years if an unauthorized alien you helped causes serious bodily injury or endangers somebody's life;
  • Up to life in prison if violations of the laws cause someone's death.

It's worth noting that the penalties listed above apply per person, not per incident. For example, suppose you are convicted of smuggling five undocumented aliens into the United States. In that case, you face up to 50 years in federal prison, representing ten years for each alien smuggled.

Enhanced Penalties

It's also worth noting that your sentence could be enhanced by an additional ten years if any of the following information is true:

  • You brought in undocumented aliens as part of an ongoing commercial enterprise, such as a business for financial benefit;
  • You transported a group of 10 or more aliens;
  • The aliens were transported in a manner that placed their lives in danger;
  • The aliens posed a life-threatening risk to anyone in the United States.

What Are the Defenses for 8 U.S.C. 1324?

Suppose you were charged with violating Title 8 U.S.C. 1324.  In that case, a federal criminal defense lawyer can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.

Defenses for Bringing in and Harboring Aliens
Contact our federal defense lawyers for help.

Maybe we can argue that you were unaware the aliens were here illegally. As noted, it must be proven that you knowingly transported, assisted, harbored, or hired aliens to be convicted.

Simply put, this is a lack of knowledge approach. Maybe you simply didn't know the immigrant's legal status. Maybe there was a language barrier, or they gave you false information. Perhaps you had a reasonable belief that they were a United States citizen.

Maybe we could argue that you did not financially benefit, meaning you might be able to avoid the sentencing enhancements described above.

Suppose your guilt is not in doubt. Maybe we can negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea bargain in that case.

To review the details of your case, you can contact us for a free case evaluation by phone or using the contact form. We provide legal representation throughout the United States on federal criminal matters. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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