When you think of undocumented immigrants or "illegal aliens," the stereotypical image that may come to mind is someone sneaking alone over the US border. That happens frequently, of course, but often that person gets some help - either getting into the country, staying in the country or both.
Sometimes the help comes from an unlikely source, and the "illegal" immigrant isn't the only one with legal problems.
Sometimes people help based on a humanitarian feelings as seen in so-called sanctuary cities. More often than not, however, it's greed that drives ordinary citizens to help immigrants enter or stay in the US illegally.
A Not-So-Smart Educator
In California, an investigation by US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) ended with the indictment of a university president. The president faces years in prison for using phony paperwork to admit foreign nationals on student visas into the university and issuing visa-related documents to those in exchange for tuition and fees.
It was discovered in another ICE investigation that employee of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) sold nearly 200 drivers' licenses to people who weren't entitled to them - mainly to undocumented immigrants. The employee charged between $1,700 and $3,000 for the licenses.
There are many federal laws making it unlawful to provide the kind of assistance the university president and DMV employee gave. For instance, the university president is charged with:
Visa fraud , which covers making false representations to obtain a visa, either for yourself or for others
Harboring aliens . It's illegal to do anything that helps an immigrant stay in the US without proper visas
The DMV employee is charged with federal program bribery for asking for and taking money in exchange for official drivers' licenses.
Other Laws May Be Violated
Keep in mind that helping someone enter or stay in the US may open you up to other criminal charges. For instance:
Help the Right Way
Anyone looking to profit by taking advantage of someone's desire to enter or stay in the US should think very carefully. ICE, other federal agencies and state law enforcement officials are paying attention.
There are legal ways to help:
- Contact your Representatives and Senators in Washington, as well as your state lawmakers, and urge them to work on immigration reform
- Donate to groups offering immigration assistance for staying in the US legally
Contact ICE about any suspicious activity
Undocumented immigrants can be easy targets for people out to make fast buck. The person will do, say or pay anything to stay in the US. That may be true, but taking advantage of the situation isn't tolerated by the law.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Are calls to and tips given to ICE anonymous?
- Do I have to ask for a green card or visa before I can rent an apartment to a foreign national?
- What should I do if I discover someone I hired used a fake ID and is actually in the country illegally?