Courts Looking at Banning Encouraging Illegal Immigration

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Earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue of a federal law that prohibits encouraging illegal immigration. The government filed a cert petition to have the court determine whether the ban is constitutional.

The 1986 law makes it a crime to encourage or induce foreigners to enter the U.S. for financial gain. The law also penalizes people who advocate for unauthorized immigrants. In recent years, a federal judge convicted Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, an undocumented immigrant and former California immigration consultant, of violating the law. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

According to Evelyn’s attorney, her clients were living in the country illegally for years. Sineneng-Smith disclosed this information to immigration officials. But the information she gave was accurate. Her clients were able to complete applications, but they had to pay $6,800 to do so.

The undocumented population has never been this large before. It has increased from about 11 million in 2009 to more than 12 million in 2008. The growth has come from Central American migrants, especially Mexicans. It was estimated that Mexico had about 1.13 million illegal immigrants in 1980.

The number of legal Mexican immigrants dropped from 2.8 million in the 1990s to less than 1.7 million in the first decade of the new century. In 2010, the number of legal entries dropped to 139,000. However, temporary worker entries reached an all-time high of 517,000.

The increase in apprehensions offered an opportunity for migrants to obtain status. They could accumulate points for paying taxes, having children who are US citizens, and taking civics courses. When a migrant reached the threshold, he or she would be granted legal permanent resident status. This strategy, known as defensive naturalization, helps protect immigrants from deportation.


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