Federal Appeals Court Rules Illegal Immigration Statute Unconstitutional

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By Jake Romero

NEW YORK, NY — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that part of an aiding-and-abetting illegal immigration law is unconstitutional, given its overbreadth and infringement upon free speech.

U.S.C. § 1324(a)(iv) states that anyone who “encourages or induces an alien to come, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard” of this being illegal, is subject to punishment.

The Court’s decision resulted from the appeal of Helaman Hansen, whom a jury found guilty on two counts of the crime, 12 counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud in 2017.

Hansen appealed the two counts, arguing that the statute’s broadness encroached upon free speech protected by the First Amendment which is therefore unconstitutional.

Hansen’s convictions pertain to an organization he ran between 2012 and 2016 called Americans Helping Americans Chamber of Commerce (AHA). Hansen deceived immigrants for financial gain, telling them they could obtain U.S. citizenship through “adult adoption.”

It was testified in the original trial that Hansen and AHA amassed more than $1.8 million in revenue, according to the Court’s official opinion. About 471 victims were accounted for—some of whom were defrauded for as much as $10,000 by AHA.

Hansen has not appealed the prolific counts of fraud, but his argument against subsection (iv) was championed by various civil rights organizations, including American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU filed an amicus brief in the appeal and argued before the Ninth Circuit panel.

“This criminal law disproportionately impacted allies of undocumented individuals and people of color who are already disproportionately policed,” the ACLU stated in a press release.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision officially invalidates law 1324(a)(iv). Hansen’s two counts have been vacated and he is remanded for resentencing.

About The Author

Jake is a senior at UC Berkeley studying English & Journalism.

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