Posted by 06 December 2018
How far can the federal government go to discourage illegal immigration? This question has taken on new importance during the presidency of Donald Trump, but it has long been a concern for policymakers. A recent ruling by a federal court has turned attention on a little-known immigration law that, according to the judges, violates the First Amendment.
A three-judge panel on the Ninth Judicial Circuit ruled that criminalizing speech that encourages or induces someone to illegally immigrate is not consistent with the U.S. Constitution. At question is a portion of the federal code that imposes a fine and prison sentence for anyone wo “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.”
The judges unanimously ruled that this language is so broad that it encompasses a variety of speech, such as a grandmother who encourages her grandson to overstay his visa. The judges acknowledged that there is a legitimate government interest in curtailing illegal immigration, but that this law criminalizes much more speech than necessary to accomplish that goal.
Supporters of this ruling see it as a victory for the First Amendment. They say that the government should not be punishing what people say. They argue that this law could make certain political advocacy illegal. Opponents counter that the government should be able to stop people who are encouraging others to break the law.
The federal government could appeal this decision to the full Ninth Circuit or, ultimately, the Supreme Court.
Do you think that it should be illegal to encourage someone to immigrate illegally to the U.S.?