Immigration attorneys across the country waited with anticipation in the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s ruling in UNITED STATES v. HANSEN, a case that promised to shed new light on how free speech impacts immigration matters. Now that the ruling has finally been released, we want to let our clients know what it means for business immigration.
In the simplest possible terms, Hansen will have little practical impact on legitimate business immigration activities. Businesses, foreign-born workers, and immigration attorneys will not have to change what they do for the most part. The only exception would be activities covered by Hansen’s narrow interpretation of a law passed in 1986.
More About the Case
Hansen arose from a case in which a man named Helaman Hansen was convicted under the 1986 statute for helping undocumented immigrants stay in the country illegally through adult adoption. Hansen was convicted of mail and wire fraud in addition to violating the 1986 law.
That law makes it a crime to willfully encourage or induce undocumented immigrants to come to, or stay in, the United States for any reason. Hansen’s legal team wanted his convictions for unlawful encouragement or inducement thrown out based on First Amendment grounds.
In its ruling, SCOTUS upheld the convictions based on the fact that Hansen’s encouragements and inducements were part of a broader criminal scheme. At the same time, the seven justices who participated in the majority decision indicated that future prosecutions needed to take a much more narrow approach to interpreting the 1986 law.
Business Immigration Largely Unaffected
After reading the ruling, our immigration attorneys are fairly confident that business immigration is largely unaffected. Employers trying to help foreign-born workers navigate the immigration system in the hope of obtaining a work visa are not inducing or encouraging illegal immigration. They are working within the system.
On the other hand, Mr. Hansen was promising a path to citizenship where none existed. As Justice Barrett explained so well in her opinion, there is no legitimate path to citizenship through adult adoption. It simply does not exist within U.S. immigration law.
Follow the Law and All Is Well
The end result of Hansen is that prosecutors will still be able to bring charges when suspects willingly induce or encourage illegal immigration. But as long as speech does not meet the threshold for illegal inducement or encouragement, people are allowed to say whatever they want about U.S. immigration.
This means charities are protected. So is the grandmother who encourages her grandchildren to stay in the U.S., where life is better, even though their visas have already expired. Grandma’s activity would only become illegal if she actively helped her grandchildren skirt the law.
Likewise, American employers are not in danger of violating the 1986 statute as long as their activities are conducted within the scope of legal business immigration. Hansen should have very little impact on what employers do in terms of recruiting, completing paperwork, helping workers navigate the system, etc.
Graham Adair Is Here to Help
We sincerely hope this update on Hansen provides reassurance to clients worried that the ruling might make business immigration more difficult. We do not suspect it will. If you do run into any problems, rest assured that Graham Adair is here to help. Business immigration is our specialty.
Our expert immigration attorneys can assist you and your foreign-born workers in navigating the immigration system, obtaining visas, and more. Feel free to contact us to set up a consultation. Our goal is to help make the immigration process as easy as possible.