Published April 12, 2017


In general, individuals who enter the U.S. without proper documentation, or who have overstayed their visas are guilty of only civil, as opposed to criminal, law violations.  That means, the worst penalty such a civil law offender generally faces is being subject to removal proceedings, and not criminal prosecution or penalties such as probation or a jail sentence.   However, in the criminal law universe there exist a range of immigration law related offenses which can subject offenders to criminal prosecution.  The Trump administration, through U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently outlined his vision for increasing law enforcement activities in these areas, including based on the following, existing criminal law statutes:

1.   “Bringing in and Harboring Certain Aliens” –  the unlawful transport of undocumented individuals will be a criminal prosecution priority, especially when such an act involves the transport of 3 or more individuals or other aggravating circumstances such as serious bodily injury, physical or sexual assault, or death of a transported individual.   

2.  “Improper Entry” and “Reentry of Previously Removed Aliens” – individuals apprehended who have previously been caught at the border and returned, or who are the subject of a previous order of removal (deportation), will face criminal felony prosecution – especially if the subject has criminal convictions and/or gang membership or affiliations.

3.  “Aggravated Identity Theft” and “fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents” –  identity and visa fraud will now be the subject of heightened consideration for criminal prosecution, although I would not be surprised if additional clarification is needed on this priority since this could potentially subject a considerable portion of the undocumented workforce to criminal prosecution.  

4.  “Assaulting, resisting, or impeding” officers –  individuals who physically confront or otherwise resist the efforts of law enforcement officers carrying out official criminal-immigration related duties will be subject to criminal prosecution.



PUBLISHED April 12, 2017– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2017, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois