What if two Florida neighbors are having a conversation over their backyard fence and one mentions that he and his family have been living in the United States illegally for more than 10 years. What if the man further discusses the situation with his neighbor by asking for advice regarding whether he should seek an adjustment of status or remain living under the radar. If the neighbor weighs in on the topic and advises the man and his family to continue living as they have been, is the neighbor guilty of a crime?
The answer is that it is yet to be determined; however, there’s a case pending in a federal appeals court that may provide an answer for the entire nation once a decision is handed down. This particular situation involves a woman who was convicted by a jury for unlawfully charging immigrants fees for filing labor and employment applications that she knew would never be successfully processed. Federal law stating no person may encourage or induce a foreigner to come to, reside in or work in the United States without appropriate legal status may have been a significant factor in her conviction.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has requested amicus briefs from various public defenders who are arguing that the woman was wrongfully convicted. The appeal that’s been filed on her behalf says the word encourage is quite subjective, and if the federal court upholds the jury’s decision, it may place more people at risk for conviction. Some argue that conversations or actions may be considered unlawful merely because verbal support or advice has been offered to immigrants.
Under this interpretation, this means a person having a private conversation could technically be committing criminal acts if he or she advises an immigrant neighbor to remain in the United States without seeking an adjustment of status. In the meantime, a Florida immigration and naturalization law attorney can assist anyone facing legal problems due to undocumented status. Strong defense representation may be key to overcoming such problems.
Source: politico.com, “Court: Law against encouraging illegal immigration could violate First Amendment“, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 19, 2017