Can the SCOTUS Case, US v. Hansen, Help To Protect Aliens Who May Be Deemed Inadmissible for Alien Smuggling?

by Alan Lee, Esq.

The Supreme Court on June 23, 2023 by 7 to 2 vote, Amy Coney Barrett writing for the majority in United States v. Hansen, No. 22-179 (US 2023) said that his acts of encouraging noncitizens to come to, enter or reside in the US illegally through a fraudulent adult adoption program were not protected by the First Amendment right of free speech. The Ninth Circuit had ruled favorably for Hansen saying that the statute criminalized even commonplace speech such as telling immigrants who are in the country illegally that “I encourage you to reside in the US” or advising them about available social services. But in a narrow ruling, Justice Barrett said that the provision “forbids only the intentional solicitation or facilitation of certain unlawful acts,” not including protected speech. In looking back on statutory history, she pointed out that then, as now, “encourage” had a specialized meaning that channeled accomplice liability, and when Congress later amended the provision, it added “induce”, which also carried solicitation and facilitation overtones. The question is what effect this ruling may have upon cases in which applicants for immigration such as parents of those who entered the US illegally in the past are now accused of alien smuggling –that they encouraged their children to illegally come to this country and are thus inadmissible to immigrate. The inadmissibility statute, 8 USC § 1182 (a)(6)(E)(i), INA § 212(a)(6)(E)(i), defines an alien smuggler as “[a]ny person who knowingly has encouraged, induced, assisted, abetted, or aided any other alien to enter or to try to enter the United States in violation of law.” It tracks closely with the Hansen punishment statute 8 USC § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv), INA § 274(a)(1)(A)(iv) imposing criminal penalties for any person who “encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.” We have seen cases in the recent past in which parents have been denied immigrant visas and been required to seek waivers based upon consular officers’ suspicions that they encouraged or helped their child to illegally come to the States. This has even occurred in situations in which a widow explained that the assistance came from her dead husband only and where both parents vehemently denied ever assisting the son or daughter. Is there a Hansen argument here that USCIS and consular officers are precluded from using the alien smuggling provision for encouragement or inducement unless they have well-founded suspicions based on accomplice liability or solicitation and facilitation? In other words, that the people did more than verbally encourage individuals to enter the US illegally. The Hansen case was of interest to the Supreme Court because of its intersection with First Amendment rights, but that case involved a US citizen and not an alien. The Court earlier ruled in Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 US 753 (1972) that noncitizens are not entitled to First Amendment protections. However, Justice Barrett made a clear ruling not based upon the First Amendment, but upon statutory interpretation, which should be just as applicable overseas to an alien as to a citizen of this country.

About The Author

Alan Lee, Esq. is an exclusive practitioner of immigration law based in New York City with an AV preeminent rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory for 20+ years, registered in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, on the New York Super Lawyers list (2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-2015, 2015-2022), and recognized as a New York Area Top Rated Lawyer. He has written extensively on immigration over the past years for Interpreter Releases, Immigration Daily, and the ethnic newspapers, World Journal, Sing Tao, Epoch Times, Pakistan Calling, Muhasba and OCS; testified as an expert on immigration in civil court proceedings; and is a regular contributor to Martindale-Hubbell's Ask-a-Lawyer program. His article, "The Bush Temporary Worker Proposal and Comparative Pending Legislation: an Analysis" was Interpreter Releases' cover display article at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in 2004; his 2004 case in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Firstland International v. INS, successfully challenged Legacy INS' policy of over 40 years of revoking approved immigrant visa petitions under a nebulous standard of proof, although its central holding that the government had to notify approved immigrant petition holders of the revocation prior to the their departure to the U. S. for the petition to be able to be revoked was short-lived as it was specifically targeted in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 (which in response changed the language of the revocation statute itself). Yet Firstland lives on as precedent that the government must comply with nondiscretionary duties established in law, and such failure is reviewable in federal courts. His 2015 case, Matter of Leacheng International, Inc., with the Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS (AAO) set nation-wide standards on the definition of "doing business" for multinational executives and managers to gain immigration benefits.

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