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Human Smuggling

San Antonio Human Smuggling Lawyers

The roads leading south of San Antonio and spanning all of central and south Texas are covered with federal agents and state officials in search of persons who have entered the U.S. illegally and for those who helped them do it. Human smuggling, more accurately referred to as “alien smuggling” by Texas law, is a serious offense that is prosecuted aggressively by federal courts. If you or a loved one is facing human smuggling charges, you don’t need just any lawyer — you need a federal attorney in San Antonio to defend your freedom and your life.

Donald Flanary is a creative and diligent federal attorney with experience fighting alien smuggling charges, federal drug crimes, and everything in between. Don’t let severe immigration policy interfere with your life, call Flanary Law Firm today at 210-738-8383 or contact us online for a free consultation.

What is considered human smuggling?

There are a few ways in which you can be charged for human smuggling. We’ll break it down simply and give some examples before going into the full statutory definition, which is worth reading. Human smuggling charges are, after all, very serious. Even first-time alien smuggling cases can carry long jail sentences and steep secondary penalties. Being caught alien smuggling in Texas can even affect the immigration status of non-citizens, cause them to be extradited, or brand them as fugitives from justice.

Continue reading: Texas extradition laws

Harboring illegal aliens

You can be charged for harboring illegal aliens for the following acts:

  • Bringing, or attempting to bring, someone to the U.S. outside of a designated point-of-entry, despite knowing that person is an alien.
  • Transporting, moving, or attempting to transport or move someone who you know has entered the U.S. illegally, or who you should know has entered the country illegally. (Even if the defendant didn’t know, but should have known, they can be charged for the above-mentioned act.)
  • Concealing, harboring, or shielding an alien from detection, or attempting to shield an alien from detection, in a building or any vehicle despite knowing the alien entered the country in violation of U.S. immigration laws.
  • Encouraging an alien to come to the U.S. or to reside in the U.S. despite knowing this will be a violation of the law. This is sufficient conduct under the federal code to charge an individual with a §1324 crime.

Remember that the undocumented immigrant’s method of entry does not matter if they came here in any way outside of the legal process. No matter how they came to be in the United States, if they are here unlawfully, they are subject to deportation when they come in contact with ICE or any other law enforcement agency.

Aiding and abetting

Aiding or abetting any of the above-listed actions can just as easily land you with a harboring charge. People who “just wanted to help” often end up charged with harboring illegal aliens; there are a few things to note:

  • Unfortunately, you can still be charged under §8 USC 1324 even if you were only intending to help someone. Helping undocumented immigrants either evade detection by law enforcement or helping them not get caught by bringing them into your home or business may subject you to a criminal charge as outlined here and can affect your future for years to come.
  • Simply having an illegal alien on one’s property as an employee, tenant, or houseguest is considered a criminal offense. Even if your intentions were to merely help someone in need, if a Texas search warrant turns up illegal immigrants, you could be facing harboring charges.

Conspiracy

Similarly to aiding and abettin or harboring, it is also illegal to conspire to do so.

  • This means that although you did not personally bring the individual to the United States or have a participating role in them coming to this country, you can still be personally liable once an illegal alien is on your property.
  • A conspiracy occurs when two or more people plan to commit an offense. Also, these people must make an overt act towards completing that plan.

Punishments for human smuggling in Texas

What is the sentence for human smuggling in Texas? The answer will depend on what the defendant knew or should have known but what will ultimately determine the length of time you can expect to spend imprisoned is whether or not you were acting for “commercial or private” financial gains.

  • If you act for profit, you can be imprisoned for up to 10 years and face fines.
  • If you do not act for profit, but violate the law anyway, you can be imprisoned for a maximum of five years.

Rarely is a human smuggling charge levied alone. Federal courts will usually stack harboring, transporting, or conspiracy charges to increase potential sentences.

One important note on penalties: if any individual who you are harboring sustains serious bodily injury, is in jeopardy of injury, faces death or could face death due to the actions you take, regardless of intent, you could face a maximum of 20 years in prison (for injury) or life in prison (for death).

How can a San Antonio alien smuggling lawyer help?

If you are under investigation for human smuggling in San Antonio, or anywhere in Texas, you need a federal defense lawyer at your side — and fast. Penalties for human smuggling charges are unforgiving in Texas, and the law does not provide much leeway.

Donald Flanary has fought for his client’s rights in hundreds of high-stakes, federal cases. You need an aggressive and compassionate federal crime attorney like Donald Flanary if you have any hope of walking away with your life. Call us today at 210-738-8383 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Full statutory definition of alien smuggling

U.S. Code § 1324 defines human smuggling or alien trafficking as:

(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;
  • (iii) 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;
  • (iv) 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; or
  • (v)
    • (I) engages in any conspiracy to commit any of the preceding acts, or
    • (II) aids or abets the commission of any of the preceding acts, shall be punished as provided in subparagraph (B)

(B) A person who violates subparagraph (A) shall, for each alien in respect to whom such a violation occurs—

  • (i) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(i) or (v)(I) or in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A) (ii), (iii), or (iv) in which the offense was done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, be fined under Title 18, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both;
  • (ii) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A) (ii), (iii), (iv), or (v)(II), be fined under Title 18, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both;
  • (iii) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), or (v) during and in relation to which the person causes serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 of Title 18 ) to, or places in jeopardy the life of, any person, be fined under Title 18, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both; and
  • (iv) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), or (v) resulting in the death of any person, be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined under Title 18, or both.

(C) It is not a violation of clauses 1 (ii) or (iii) of subparagraph (A), or of clause (iv) of subparagraph (A) except where a person encourages or induces an alien to come to or enter the United States, for a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States, or the agents or officers of such denomination or organization, to encourage, invite, call, allow, or enable an alien who is present in the United States to perform the vocation of a minister or missionary for the denomination or organization in the United States as a volunteer who is not compensated as an employee, notwithstanding the provision of room, board, travel, medical assistance, and other basic living expenses, provided the minister or missionary has been a member of the denomination for at least one year.

(2) Any person who, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, brings to or attempts to bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever, such alien, regardless of any official action which may later be taken with respect to such alien shall, for each alien in respect to whom a violation of this paragraph occurs—

(A) be fined in accordance with Title 18 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; or

(B) in the case of—

  • (i) an offense committed with the intent or with reason to believe that the alien unlawfully brought into the United States will commit an offense against the United States or any State punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year,
  • (ii) an offense done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or
  • (iii) an offense in which the alien is not upon arrival immediately brought and presented to an appropriate immigration officer at a designated port of entry, be fined under Title 18 and shall be imprisoned, in the case of a first or second violation of subparagraph (B)(iii), not more than 10 years, in the case of a first or second violation of subparagraph (B)(i) or (B)(ii), not less than 3 nor more than 10 years, and for any other violation, not less than 5 nor more than 15 years.

(3)

(A) Any person who, during any 12-month period, knowingly hires for employment at least 10 individuals with actual knowledge that the individuals are aliens described in subparagraph (B) shall be fined under Title 18 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

(B) An alien described in this subparagraph is an alien who—

  • (i) is an unauthorized alien (as defined in section 1324a(h)(3) of this title), and
  • (ii) has been brought into the United States in violation of this subsection.

(4) In the case of a person who has brought aliens into the United States in violation of this subsection, the
sentence otherwise provided for may be increased by up to 10 years if—

(A) the offense was part of an ongoing commercial organization or enterprise;
(B) aliens were transported in groups of 10 or more; and
(C)

  • (i) aliens were transported in a manner that endangered their lives; or
  • (ii) the aliens presented a life-threatening health risk to people in the United States.

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