Attorneys generals from 25 states have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court over border security. The AGs are asking the high court to protect a federal law that’s been used to prosecute those who encourage others to break immigration law or help give rise to illegal immigration.
Oral arguments in the United States v. Helaman Hansen case are scheduled to begin before the Supreme Court on March 27.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen leads the coalition and is recommending the Supreme Court reverse a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The Ninth Circuit court struck down a part of 8 U.S. Code, which allows the federal government to prosecute cases related to illegal immigration. The Ninth circuit court has also filed an appeal.

Montana Attorney General Knudsen

The debate surrounds whether or not the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is violated by the federal prohibition that keeps Americans from encouraging unlawful behavior, such as violating immigration laws for private gain.

Helaman Hansen’s business has come under scrutiny for advising foreign nationals on how to skirt the legal system. His business involved showing those who were in the U.S. illegally how to gain U.S. citizenship. He charged a fee for his services, for which he was later convicted and sentenced. Hansen violated federal law and was charged with two counts of encouraging or inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain under 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) (the “encouragement provision”) and (B)(i).

According to provision 8 of U.S.C., it is a felony to “encourage[] or induce[] an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of the law.”

Failure to comply with the law carries a maximum penalty of five years of jail time. This can be extended to ten years when there is a financial gain involved “for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.”

However, the Ninth Circuit used the “overbreadth doctrine,” which allows the Court to maneuver around the law if it believes the ruling will lead to the violation of the First Amendment in several subsequent cases to strike down the U.S.C. statute.

The Supreme Court has already ruled to reverse a Ninth Circuit decision that struck down the same statute. The Court ruled unanimously against the Ninth Circuit on procedural grounds. This time the Court will look at the constitutional provision.

According to Just the News, the twenty-five Attorney Generals have accused the Ninth Circuit court of overruling the law and, in so doing, making it more difficult to prosecute and enforce criminal immigration,

“strained textual analysis of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) ‘s criminal prohibition on encouraging or inducing non-citizens to unlawfully enter or reside in the United States, invalidated that law on the grounds that it is unconstitutionally over-broad.” They also have noted that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling “will impede the enforcement of criminal immigration laws nationwide, leading to significant adverse consequences for the Amici States.”

The A.G.s also said the Ninth Circuit court ruling is an overstep by the federal government, which does not have a right to impede a state’s ability to enforce state law, maintaining that the ruling,

“threatens widespread uncertainty in the state’s ability to enforce their criminal laws that use these terms.”

According to the group, the Ninth Circuit, whose decision is supported by the ACLU, does not convey a clear picture of how the First Amendment is violated by current law and asked that a provision using the overbreadth doctrine “should require a showing more than a hypothetical danger of chilling protected speech.”

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