Increased Sentences Backed for Some Immigration Offenses


Increased sentences for those who commit certain immigration offenses were voted for last month by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC), but the commission did not adopt some of the more radical changes it initially proposed to the guidelines.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted on changes to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in April. In certain cases, the changes will result in higher sentences to people convicted of smuggling, transporting, or harboring an unlawful alien, or unlawfully entering or remaining in the United States.

The guideline will be changed to allow judges to take account of “prior criminal conduct in a more proportionate manner.” The amendment that was adopted adds an enhancement that’s aimed at criminal offenses committed by immigrants who reentered the country illegally, once they are in the U.S.  The commission also backed sentences that will account for the number of times a defendant has been convicted of illegal reentry to the United States.

The USSC has also changed the federal sentencing guidelines that are in place for alien smugglers. There will be higher penalties available in the sentencing of people who smuggle “vulnerable unaccompanied minors.” Four levels of sentencing will apply to any smuggling case that involves sexual abuse. The amendments are due to take effect on Nov. 1.

The American Immigration Council described the changes as a “mixed bag.” It pointed out USSC did not take up all of the changes that were mooted at the outset of a review. Most importantly, it did not increase the base-level offense for immigrants who were apprehended re-entering the country illegally.

Higher Sentences for Illegal Reentry Fail to Deter Immigrants

The American Immigration Council was one of the bodies that opposed these changes when they were first proposed in January. Other opponents of the higher sentences included National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild, United We Dream and Human Rights Watch.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), provided testimony that pointed out illegal reentry prosecutions are not only costly, but there is little evidence that they deter unauthorized immigration. The USSC appeared to concur. A year earlier, it completed a report entitled Illegal Reentry Offenses which found the number of people sentenced under existing guidelines rose steadily from 2007 to 2013.

Offenses such as alien smuggling are dealt with at a federal level. U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the lead enforcement agency dealing with human smuggling and human trafficking. It points out some smuggling situations involve murder, rape, and assault.

In some situations, there are gray areas about what constitutes smuggling. However, the federal authorities often take a heavy-handed approach. Our Texas attorneys are experts at defending allegations of human smuggling as well as the laws on deportation. See more by clicking this link.

Our criminal and immigration attorneys are highly qualified in the field of alien smuggling case law as well as re-entry cases. We will work with you to make sure you are supported and helped if these serious allegations are leveled against you.  Contact us at (512) 399-2311.

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