Will the Supreme Court Make it Legal to Cause Illegal Immigration?

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January 26, 2023

IRLI protects free speech and law enforcement

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court calling on the Court to protect First Amendment rights while enforcing immigration law.

Human trafficking is a crime. Federal law prohibits bringing illegal aliens across the border, transporting them within the United States, harboring or shielding them from law enforcement, or inducing them to break American immigration laws.

But one individual charged with defrauding illegal immigrants by selling them a bogus path to citizenship says the First Amendment protects him from prosecution for this scam.

Helaman Hansen was charged with taking fees from aliens for helping them seek citizenship through fraudulent “adult adoption.” This inducement made the aliens illegally overstay their visas. The United States government prosecuted Hansen, but his lawyers claim the law under which it did so violates the First Amendment.

IRLI disagrees. The First Amendment is our most cherished constitutional right, protecting Americans’ core freedoms: speech, religion, and petition. It does not, however, protect criminal enterprises that rely on speech. Just as it is illegal to commit false advertising or blackmail, or to run pyramid schemes, so it is illegal to trick people out of their money and induce them to break immigration law. Properly interpreted, the law against encouraging or inducing aliens to break immigration laws does not penalize First Amendment-protected speech, but only crimes carried out by speech.

“This case is a cynical use of the First Amendment,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “The defendant did not even claim that his own speech and actions were protected by the First Amendment. Instead, he attempted to show that the law against inducing may violate the free speech rights of other people. We hope the Court adheres to an interpretation of the law that forecloses his argument, and protects Americans while fully recognizing their right to free speech.”

The case is United States v. Hansen, No. 22-179 (Supreme Court).

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