Posted on September 26, 2019

Prison, Labor Camps, Caning: Illegal Entry Is Serious Crime Outside U.S.

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, September 23, 2019

Jumping the border in Singapore is punishable by six months in prison — and not less than three strokes with a cane.

In Russia, it can earn you up to two years in a prison labor camp.

Pakistan goes as high as 10 years in prison, while India allows for up to eight years behind bars for those who sneak across its boundaries.

It’s a far cry from the U.S., where illegal entry is a misdemeanor, with a maximum of six months in jail. In reality, most of those who are prosecuted — and only about 1 in 5 border jumpers are — are sentenced to time served and are out within days.

The U.S. has one of the world’s weaker laws for illegal entry, according to the data in a study by the Library of Congress, which surveyed statutes in more than 160 nations and released its findings amid a heated debate over whether America’s penalties are too stiff.


In the U.S., illegal entry is criminalized under 8 US Code Section 1325, “improper entry by alien,” which calls for a fine or imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Doing it a second time can earn a two-year sentence.

That is in addition to the civil penalty for being in the country without authorization, for which the result is deportation.

Those policies are in line with laws in Canada and the United Kingdom, which also impose six-month maximum sentences on illegal entry, but, like the U.S., usually just deport border jumpers instead.

A dozen other countries — including Iceland, Jordan and Guatemala — also have maximum six-month sentences, the Library of Congress reported.

China has perhaps the most complex laws, ranging from short detention and deportation to years in prison, depending on the circumstances.

Italy’s basic penalty is a fine, but in aggravated cases illegal entry can earn up to 15 years in prison, the researchers found.

Being armed, threatening to use force, inflicting damage or arriving as a group can earn heightened penalties in some places. But entering to claim asylum is often specifically exempted.

Several dozen countries lack any criminal penalties, the researchers said, using deportation or expulsion but no possibility of jail time.

That’s particularly true in Latin American countries, where Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela don’t envision time behind bars, the researchers found.