Laws and Penalties Associated with Smuggling Illegal Immigrants

The March 22, 2016 arrest of Jose Antonio-Landin-Ortiz and Jose Alfredo-Ortiz-Vega—both of whom are from Mexico and who were living in the U.S. illegally—at the Falfurrias, Texas, checkpoint underscore the recurring problem in this state, and other states as well, of human smuggling. Border Patrol agents found two illegal aliens hidden in the air dam of a tractor trailer truck.


Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens are apprehended each year either trying to cross the Texas border or seized during state and federal investigations into human trafficking operations.


Section 274(a)(1)(a) of the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act makes it a crime for anyone who helps bring or attempts to bring a non-citizen into the United States through any non-inspection site maintained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It does not matter how this unlawful entry is accomplished.


The penalty for committing this offense is a sentence up to ten years, a fine under Title 18 of the United States Code, or both. If an injury occurs during the commission of this offense, the penalty can be increased to twenty years; and if someone dies as a result of the offense, the penalty can be increased to life imprisonment.


With Texas being located on the U.S.-Mexican border, immigration is hard to escape. But regardless of what side of the issue you land on, there’s no escaping the fact that smuggling or bringing illegal immigrants to the United States is serious crime.


Smuggling Illegal Immigrants is a Federal Crime

Just a few weeks ago, U.S. Border Patrol agents in Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley discovered an immigrant stash house. Not only did they find 18 illegal immigrants, they also discovered that the immigrants were living in terrible, inhumane, unsanitary conditions.


Neighbors on the block said they noticed suspicious activity such as covering the windows with foil, always having a large pile of trash out back, and an awful smell emanating from the house. Eventually one of those neighbors reported the house to local law enforcement who subsequently raided the place.


Unfortunately, there are horror stories like this throughout Texas and in the border towns of other states that turn up every day. Illegal immigrants desperate for a better quality of life are willing to pay smugglers large amounts of money – as high as $7,500 for the Edinburg immigrants – to simply come here to the United States.


There’s a lot of money to be made, and also plenty of relatives, friends, and others here in the States who might wish to help those less fortunate to find their way to a better life. But it’s still a crime, and if you are charged – or simply worried about a potential charge – you need to understand the laws and consequences that illegal immigrant smugglers can possibly face if they are allegedly caught committing this crime.