This morning I’d like to clarify an area of the law that lots of people online this week are going to get wrong.
Disturbing the Peace
Harboring a Runaway Child
These are Class-A Misdemeanor crimes,
Class-A is the most serious Misdemeanor category.
Class-A Misdemeanor crimes are punishable in the US by things like:
*Fines ranging anywhere from $500 to $5,000
*Up to one (1) year imprisonment
Something that most people you’ll talk to, no matter where they stand on immigration, aren’t aware of, is where Improper Entry (that is, crossing the border into the US without proper documentation) fits on or list of crimes.
Right here, actually:
U.S. Code › Title 8 › Chapter 12 › Subchapter II › Part VIII › § 1325 – Improper entry by alien
(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts
Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
(b) Improper time or place; civil penaltiesAny alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of—
(1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or
(2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under this subsection.
Furthermore you’ll notice just being in the country without docs is coded as a civil offense, not a criminal offense. The meaning of that distinction may not be meaningful to the average American whose primary exposure to the legal system is basically courtroom tv dramas, so I’ll footnote – In other words, it’s a less serious infraction than your buddy’s bachelor party and the Drunk&Disorderly charge he got when he peed on the side of a police car. Remember that Reckless Driving charge you got in high school when a bee got in your car and you were pulled over? That’s also a far more serious crime, per the US Code than being in the country illegaly, because your Misdemeanor is a Crime, not a Civil Offense.
Now, to ACTUALLY qualify for ILLEGAL immigrant status, meaning an immigrant who’s actually committing a crime by being here undocumented, you need to have been DEPORTED at least once before, and come back. (we don’t see a lot of this anymore. the current trend in migration is not primarily men from Mexico looking to send remittances home to feed their families anymore, but central american mothers fleeing failing/failed states, and looking for asylum with their kids.) Illegal RE-ENTRY is a Misdemeanor on the same level as Vandalism or Shoplifting, like you did when you were thirteen to impress your friends.
The thing is, I don’t hear many people trying to justify separating OUR families by claiming, “They’re criminals. If they don’t like how they’re treated, then they shouldn’t have broken the law.”
Like I said, you’re going to see a lot of people being SUPER wrong about this stuff on comment threads over the next few weeks. It’s not their fault. There’s been a serious campaign among the partisan news outlets to rebrand refugees, both economic and persecution-fleeing, crossing the border as an existential threat to our economy, or way of life, and to “the integrity of our demographic mix” (if your outlet of choice is particularly extreme.) But largely what they’re peddling is both disingenuous and out of step with both American values and American law.
It’s alright to have a range of opinions about how secure our border ought to be, and how you’d like to see the laws governing it change. But it’s important to be aware of the efforts being made by some news outlets to misrepresent our current laws, conditions at the border themselves, and the nature and intentions of the migrants we debate, before we qualify as having valid thoughts.
It helps to have the facts upfront.