US law against encouraging illegal immigration struck down

A U.S. appeals court struck down a federal immigration law that opponents warned could be used to criminalize a wide range of statements involving illegal immigration.

The law made it a felony for people to encourage an immigrant to enter or live in the U.S. if they know the person would be doing so illegally.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law violates the First Amendment because it criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech. Judge A. Wallace Tashima said the statute, for example, would make it illegal for a grandmother to urge her grandson to ignore limits on his visa by encouraging him to stay in the U.S.

He said in addition, a speech addressed to a crowd that encouraged everyone in the country illegally to stay here could also lead to a criminal prosecution.

He said “criminalizing expression like this threatens almost anyone willing to weigh in on the debate."

Dawn Kamber