Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 19.25 B. Alien Smuggling

Skip to § 19.

For more text, click "Next Page>"

(A)  In General.  The alien smuggling definition of aggravated felony includes “[a]n offense described in paragraph (1)(a) or (2) of section 274(a) (relating to alien smuggling).” [313]  This aggravated felony category has a statutory exception, which constitutes a safe haven, for “a first offense for which the alien has affirmatively shown that the alien committed the offense for the purpose of assisting, abetting, or aiding only the alien’s spouse, child or parent (and no other individual) to violate a provision of this Act.”[314]


This aggravated felony ground refers to a specific federal statute defining an immigration offense.[315]  The noncitizen must have been convicted of violating 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a) to trigger this aggravated felony ground.[316]  A conviction under this section may be considered an aggravated felony for illegal re-entry sentencing purposes even if it is not found to be an aggravated felony for immigration purposes.[317]  The listed federal criminal offenses expressly include aiding and abetting alien smuggling as part of the proscribed conduct.[318]


                A noncitizen is not deportable for an alien smuggling aggravated felony offense if s/he committed the offense more than five years after entry (e.g., s/he encouraged another person to enter illegally without leaving the U.S. him- or herself).[319]

[313] INA § 101(a)(43)(N), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(N).  See Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (“IRTPA”), § 5401, Pub. L. No. 108-458; S. 2845, 108th Congress (signed Dec. 17, 2004), amending INA § 274, 8 U.S.C. § 1324.

[314] Ibid.

[315] INA § 274, 8 U.S.C. § 1324.

[316] See, e.g., Altamirano v. Gonzales, 427 F.3d 586 (9th Cir. Oct. 31, 2005) (mere presence in vehicle at port of entry does not constitute alien smuggling under INA § 212(a)(6)(E)(i), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(E)(i), even if the individual has knowledge that an alien was hiding in the trunk of the vehicle; simple knowledge without encouraging, inducing, assisting, abetting, or aiding is insufficient); United States v. Resendiz-Ponce, 425 F.3d 729 (9th Cir. Oct. 11, 2005) (indictment’s failure to allege any specific overt act that is a substantial step toward entry is a fatal defect in an indictment for attempted entry following deportation under 8 U.S.C. § 1326, requiring dismissal); Tapucu v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d 736, 740-42 (6th Cir. 2005) (driving an undocumented noncitizen to the United States border, and presenting him to the immigration authorities upon inspection, not knowing that the noncitizen is not entitled to enter the United States, at least on a temporary basis, does not constitute “alien smuggling”).

[317] See § 19.22, supra. 

[318] INA § 274(a)(1)(A)(v)(II), 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(II) (“aids or abets the commission of any of the preceding [alien smuggling, harboring, or transporting] acts . . . .”).  See United States v. Garcia, 400 F.3d 816 (9th Cir. Mar. 11, 2005) (aiding and abetting is not a separate offense from the substantive offenses of alien smuggling and transportation of aliens, but rather a different theory of liability for the same offense).

[319] See INA § 237(a)(1)(E), 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(E).



Third Circuit

Biskupski v. Attorney Gen. of the US, __ F.3d __, 2007 WL 2774528 (3d Cir. Sept. 25, 2007) (federal misdemeanor conviction of violating 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(2)(A), aiding and abetting alien smuggling, is an "aggravated felony" even though only punishable as a misdemeanor under federal law).

Ninth Circuit

United States v. Guzman-Mata, 579 F.3d 1065 (9th Cir. Aug. 27, 2009) (federal conviction for violation of 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A) is categorically an "alien smuggling" offense; noncitizen bears burden of showing that "family" exception applies; shift of burden is not impermissible).

NOTE: This case relies upon the reasoning of Nijhawan v. Holder, 557 U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 2294 (2009).
United States v. Lopez, 484 F.3d 1186 (9th Cir. May 7, 2007) (bringing a noncitizen to the United States, in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(2), is a continuing offense that terminates when the initial transporter who brings the alien to the United States drops off the person at a location in this country), overruling United States v. Ramirez-Martinez, 273 F.3d 903, and United States v. Angwin, 271 F.3d 786.