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Causing Illegal Immigration Is Not a First Amendment Right

IRLI protects free speech and law enforcement


WASHINGTON—The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a brief with the Supreme Court of the United States 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 criminal who profited from defrauding illegal immigrants by selling them bogus work-authorization documents says the First Amendment protects her from prosecution for this scam.


Evelyn Sineneng-Smith charged fees to aliens for work authorization applications that she knew were invalid. This inducement made the aliens illegally overstay their visas. The United States prosecuted Sineneng-Smith, but her lawyers claim the law under which she was charged 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 by a criminal,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “The defendant did not even claim that her own speech and actions were protected by the First Amendment. Instead, she 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 her argument, and protects Americans while fully recognizing their right to free speech.”


The case is United States v. Sineneng-Smith, No. 19-67 (Supreme Court).

For additional information, contact:

Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org


IRLI is a supporting organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Copyright © 2019 Immigration Reform Law Institute. All rights reserved.