The Houston criminal lawyers at McLemore, Reddell & Story, P.L.L.C. have extensive experience representing defendants charged with serious crimes in Texas federal courts. In our Federal Criminal Law article, we briefly mention human trafficking as one of the areas of federal criminal law we commonly practice, and human smuggling as a subset of that practice area. Because illegal immigration is always a hot topic in Texas, we will go into more depth about what constitutes human smuggling in the United States.
What is human smuggling?
The U.S. Department of State defines human smuggling (sometimes called people smuggling) as "the facilitation, transportation, attempted transportation, or illegal entry of a person or persons across an international border in violation of one or more countries’ laws, either clandestinely or through deception, such as the use of fraudulent documents." While financial gain or material benefit is sometimes an element of human smuggling, people may also engage in smuggling to reunite their families or improve their standard of living. Human smuggling is distinguishable from human trafficking because people being smuggled are not necessarily victims of smuggling. Rather, they are complicit in the crime.
The Immigration and Nationalization Act provides for federal criminal penalties for acts or attempts associated with human smuggling, such as:
- Bringing unauthorized aliens to or into the United States
- Transporting unauthorized aliens within the United States
- Harboring unlawful aliens
- Encouraging entry of illegal aliens
- Conspiring to commit any of these violations, knowingly or in reckless disregard for illegal status
Each of these possible charges is considered a felony, carrying a potential sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison. When a person is suspected of human smuggling, however, it is rare that he or she will only be charged for one act. Instead, the government will levy as many charges as possible against a defendant, and because smuggling operations usually involve multiple acts and numerous parties, charging one person with harboring, transporting, and conspiracy, for example, is not difficult. Once all of these charges are combined, a human smuggling defendant will likely face up to 30 years in federal prison.
Seek Experienced Criminal Defense Representation
If you or someone you care about faces human trafficking or human smuggling charges, or if you face investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, please contact McLemore, Reddell & Story, P.L.L.C. for a free consultation with an experienced Houston criminal lawyer. We can help you avoid the serious consequences of being charged with a federal crime.