There should be full support for legal immigration into America. Those who toil through the
often-lengthy process of arriving here legally should be commended.
Illegal immigration is, well, illegal. However, the issue is complicated, constantly discussed, and
intentionally made confusing by some advocate groups.
Unfortunately, one of the main sub-issues is purely political. Both parties are concerned about
present and future voters within the legal and illegal immigrant community.
I am conflicted on the issue myself. President Trump did the right thing by signing an executive
order reuniting families with children. Children are not to blame for this problem.
The responsible parties who compound the problem are the parents who illegally enter the
United States, organizations and people who advocate breaking the law, so called “sanctuary”
cities and states that refuse to abide by federal law, and businesses that encourage and welcome
illegal immigration.
Additionally, many people have chosen to confuse the issue by referring to illegal immigrants as
“undocumented” as if some paperwork was filed improperly by a clerk. Legal and illegal
immigrants are both improperly grouped into one category. They are all referred to as
“Sanctuary” cities and states compound the problem by refusing to cooperate with the federal
government, breaking the law, and sending the message to Americans and the world that
breaking the law in the United States is acceptable if you disagree with the law.
Admittedly, if I was born in an impoverished country, like Mexico, near the United States
border, I would probably risk my life and the lives of my children to bring them to a better place
too. Paternal instinct is the strongest natural instinct that most humans possess.
But, do illegal immigrants commit a crime by being in the United States or do they face only
civil consequences?
It depends on the circumstance.
Improper Entry Is a Crime
The most common crime associated with illegal immigration is improper entry. Under federal
law, it is misdemeanor for an alien (non-citizen) to:
1. Enter or attempt to enter the United States at any time or place other than designated
by immigration officers;
2. Elude examination or inspection by immigration officers; or
3. Attempt to enter or obtain entry to the United States by willfully concealing, falsifying,
or misrepresenting material facts.
If convicted, the punishment is up to six months of incarceration and up to $250 in civil penalties
for each illegal entry. These acts of improper entry most commonly occur in the southwestern
part of the United States on the Mexican border. If a defendant goes to trial, improper entry must
be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. This is the same burden of
proof used in other criminal trials.
Unlawful Presence Is Not a Crime
Some people assume that all illegal immigrants who are in the United States committed improper
entry. While many illegal immigrants did and still do cross the border, there are also foreign
nationals who legally enter the country on a valid work or travel visa but fail to leave before their
visa expires or fail to renew their visa.
But, unlawful presence in the country is not a crime. It is a violation of federal law to remain in
the country without legal authorization, but this violation is punishable by civil penalties, not
criminal. However, these civil penalties can be severe. They include possible deportation or
removal. Here, the person may be detained and removed from the country. Unlawful presence
can also have negative consequences for a resident who is seeking to gain re-entry into the
United States, or permanent residency.
If you or a loved one are having immigration problems, please at least meet with an experienced
and trustworthy immigration lawyer. My law firm routinely refers people to quality lawyers in
this field.
Even though I do not personally judge each illegal immigrant in making their decision to seek a
better life, both improper entry and unlawful presence should not be excused or encouraged by
anyone in the United States. This is a land of laws, not men.
But, where is the lawful, humanitarian, and national security solution to this problem? If a
solution is found, how can Congress and a president agree on it in the foreseeable future?
I am afraid that the issue is so polarized now that a solution is far away.