Supreme Court Issues 7-2 Ruling to Uphold Law that Prohibits the Encouragement of Illegal Immigration

On June 23, 2023, the United States Supreme Court issued  a 7-2 ruling on Friday upholding a federal law which banned the encouragement or incitement of illegal immigration. In this case, the court ruled that the law does not violate the First Amendment. This decision effectively overturned a Ninth Circuit decision that determined the law was unconstitutionally overbroad.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the opinion for the majority 7-2 decision, determining that the Ninth Circuit was wrong in ruling that a federal law criminalizing the act of encouraging illegal immigration was unconstitutionally overbroad, thereby could not be applied to any individual.

Barrett wrote in this opinion:

Properly interpreted, this provision forbids only the intentional solicitation or facilitation of certain unlawful acts. It does not “prohibi[t] a substantial amount of protected speech”—let alone enough to justify throwing out the law’s “plainly legitimate sweep.”

Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) reaches no further than the purposeful solicitation and facilitation of specific acts known to violate federal law. So understood, the statute does not “prohibi[t] a substantial amount of protected speech” relative to its “plainly legitimate sweep.”

In 2017, Helaman Hansen received a conviction for running a multi-million dollar fraud operation from 2012 to 2016 where he defrauded over 450 foreign nationals, many who were living temporarily in the US on visas, out of roughly $2 million by vowing to provide them a pathway to American citizenship if they coughed up thousands of dollars so that he could set up “adult adoptions.”

Under Hansen’s scheme, foreign nationals were  convinced that they could obtain naturalized American citizenship if an American citizen legally adopted them. Hansen promised to arrange such a move if they paid him a fee.

In some cases, a Mexican couple gave Hansen $9,000 to assist them in this process. Similarly, a Fiji national paid him $4,500 with the aim of becoming a naturalized American citizen. When Hansen did not fulfill the promises he made, he informed the foreign nationals, under false pretenses, that since they were enrolled in his adult adoption program, federal immigration enforcement officials could not arrest or deport them.

As a result, Hansen received a conviction on 12 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and two counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration with the aim of extracting private financial gain.

Hansen aimed to have his conviction for encouraging illegal immigration thrown out on the grounds of First Amendment overbreadth. The district court threw out Hansen’s argument and slapped him with a 20 year federal prison sentence.

As a response, Hansen went to the Ninth Circuit following the appellate court’s ruling in a separate case that determined that the law was unconstitutionally overbroad. However, the Supreme Court quickly vacated that ruling.

In Hansen’s case, the Ninth Circuit discovered that the law was unconstitutionally overbroad and was not applicable to him. Good on the Supreme Court for upholding a common sense law that cracks down on subversion. At some point, we have to recognize that certain activities must be stamped out even if they are protected under free speech.

The protection of our civil action takes precedence over abstract freedoms that allow for our enemies to gain further ground against us.

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