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United States v. Sineneng-Smith

Supreme Court of the United States

February 25, 2020, Argued; May 7, 2020, Decided

No. 19-67.


Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

] This case concerns 8 U. S. C. §1324, which makes it a federal felony to “encourag[e] or induc[e] an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard [**4]  of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.” §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv). The crime carries an enhanced penalty if “done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.” §1324(a)(1)(B)(i). 1

Respondent Evelyn Sineneng-Smith operated an immigration consulting firm in San Jose, California. She was indicted for multiple violations of §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (B)(i). Her clients, most of them from the Philippines, worked without authorization in the home health care industry in the United States. Between 2001 and 2008, Sineneng-Smith assisted her clients in applying for a “labor certification” that once allowed certain aliens to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident permitted to live and work in the United States. §1255(i)(1)(B)(ii).

There was a hindrance to the efficacy of Sineneng-Smith’s advice and assistance. To qualify for the labor certification dispensation she promoted to her clients, an alien had to be in the United States on December 21, 2000, and apply for certification before April 30, 2001. §1255(i)(1)(C). Sineneng-Smith knew her clients did not meet the application-filing deadline; hence, their applications could not put them on a path to lawful  [*870]  residence. 2 Nevertheless, she charged each client [**5]  $5,900 to file an application with the Department of Labor and another $900 to file with the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. For her services in this regard, she collected more than $3.3 million from her unwitting clients.

In the District Court, Sineneng-Smith urged unsuccessfully, inter alia, that the above-cited provisions, properly construed, did not cover her conduct, and if they did, they violated the Petition and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment as applied. See Motion to Dismiss in No. 10-cr-414 (ND Cal.), pp. 7-13, 20-25; Motion for Judgt. of Acquittal in No. 10-cr-414 (ND Cal.), pp. 14-19, 20-25. She was convicted on two counts under §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (B)(i), and on other counts (filing false tax returns and mail fraud) she does not now contest. Throughout the District Court proceedings and on appeal, she was represented by competent counsel.

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206 L. Ed. 2d 866 *; 2020 U.S. LEXIS 2639 **; 28 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 215


Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.


United States v. Sineneng-Smith, 910 F.3d 461, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 34069 (9th Cir. Cal., Dec. 4, 2018)

Disposition: 910 F. 3d 461, vacated and remanded.


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Criminal Law & Procedure, Miscellaneous Offenses, Harboring & Transporting Illegal Aliens, Elements, Penalties, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, Civil Procedure, US Supreme Court Review, Jurisdiction on Certiorari, Considerations Governing Review