Punishments for Federal Immigration Crimes in New York
Immigration laws in the United States are enforced through both civil and criminal proceedings. While civil immigration violations can result in deportation and other consequences, criminal immigration violations carry additional punishments like fines and imprisonment. In New York, both federal and state laws impose criminal penalties for certain immigration-related offenses.
Federal Immigration Crimes
Several federal criminal statutes relate to immigration violations. These laws are enforced by agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Common federal immigration crimes include:
Under 8 U.S.C. Section 1325(a), it’s a federal misdemeanor for an alien to:
- Enter or attempt to enter the U.S. at any time or place other than designated by immigration officers
- Elude examination or inspection by immigration officers
- Obtain entry to the U.S. through false or misleading representation
First offenses are punishable by up to 6 months in prison. Subsequent offenses can result in up to 2 years in prison.
Reentry After Deportation
8 U.S.C. Section 1326 makes it a felony for a deported alien to enter, attempt to enter, or be found in the U.S. without permission from the Attorney General. Punishments vary based on the person’s criminal record:
- Up to 2 years in prison for aliens with no significant criminal record
- Up to 10 years in prison for aliens with a regular criminal record
- Up to 20 years in prison for aliens with serious criminal records or who were deported for terrorism or drug trafficking
Harsher punishments apply if the alien illegally reenters multiple times.
Under 8 U.S.C. Section 1324, it’s a federal felony to knowingly bring unauthorized aliens into the U.S. or transport, harbor, or shield them from detection. Penalties include:
- Up to 1 year in prison for general smuggling
- Up to 10 years in prison if done for financial gain or commercial advantage
- Up to 20 years in prison if serious bodily injury results
18 U.S.C. Section 1546 prohibits fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other immigration documents. Offenses include:
- Forging, counterfeiting, or altering immigration documents
- Using forged or fraudulent documents
- False statements on immigration paperwork
Penalties can include up to 25 years in prison depending on the offense. Immigration fraud convictions also result in permanent ineligibility for immigration benefits.
Employing Unauthorized Workers
Under 8 U.S.C. Section 1324a, employers face civil fines and criminal prosecution for knowingly hiring or employing aliens not authorized to work in the U.S. Criminal penalties can include fines and up to 6 months imprisonment for regular violations, or up to 5 years for pattern and practice violations.
State Immigration Crimes
In addition to federal laws, New York State has its own criminal statutes related to immigration violations:
Under New York Penal Law Section 190.23, it’s a class A misdemeanor to pretend to be a U.S. citizen or use false documents to get a benefit under immigration laws. Punishment can include up to 1 year in jail.
Aggravated Criminal Impersonation
New York Penal Law Section 190.26 makes it a class E felony to commit criminal impersonation to obtain permanent residence or an identification document. This can result in up to 4 years in prison.
Unlawful Transportation of Aliens
New York Penal Law Section 14-F prohibits transporting or attempting to transport undocumented immigrants into the state while knowing or recklessly disregarding their unlawful status. Penalties range from fines up to $10,000 and up to 1 year in jail.
Employing Undocumented Immigrants
Under New York Labor Law Section 341, employers can face fines and misdemeanor charges for knowingly employing someone not authorized to work in the U.S. Punishment is up to $500 per offense and up to 30 days in jail.
Those facing criminal immigration charges may raise certain defenses like:
- Lack of knowledge – For smuggling, transporting, or employing undocumented immigrants, the prosecution must prove the defendant knew or recklessly disregarded the person’s unlawful status.
- Duress – Defendants can claim they acted under immediate threat to life or limb.
- Statute of limitations – Federal immigration crimes generally have a 5 year statute of limitations.
- Unlawful arrest – Evidence obtained through an illegal search or seizure may be suppressed.
- Citizenship claims – Defendants may argue they are U.S. citizens not subject to immigration laws.
- Asylum/refugee status – Those with pending asylum claims may not be criminally prosecuted.
- Selective prosecution – Defendants may argue similarly situated individuals aren’t prosecuted.
Beyond fines and jail time, federal and state immigration crimes can impact a non-citizen’s immigration status. Consequences may include:
- Deportation – Many immigration crimes make aliens deportable and subject to removal proceedings.
- Inadmissibility – Criminal convictions can prevent re-entry and bar future visa applications.
- Detention – Those in removal proceedings may be detained without bond based on criminal records.
- Bars to citizenship – Criminal immigration offenses prevent naturalization for 5+ years.
Permanent residents charged with deportable offenses should consult immigration attorneys about potential relief like cancellation of removal. But criminal immigration convictions have severe immigration consequences that can’t always be avoided.
Trends and Statistics
- In 2021, 65,742 individuals were criminally prosecuted for federal immigration crimes nationwide. [Source]
- The most common federal immigration charges in 2021 were illegal reentry (34,233 cases), alien smuggling (21,397 cases), and improper entry (8,893 cases). [Source]
- In New York, 660 individuals were prosecuted for federal immigration crimes in 2021. Common charges were reentry after deportation (419 cases) and alien smuggling (168 cases). [Source]
- From 2018 to 2020, there were 1,508 prosecutions for NY criminal impersonation charges (PL 190.23) and 104 prosecutions for aggravated criminal impersonation (PL 190.26). [Source]
Federal and state officials in New York remain aggressive in prosecuting immigration-related crimes. Non-citizens should be aware of the range of civil and criminal penalties under immigration laws. Those facing charges should seek experienced criminal and immigration defense counsel. Careful plea agreements may avoid negative immigration consequences in appropriate cases. But immigration crimes ultimately put residency status and the ability to remain in the U.S. in serious jeopardy.