South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Corporation and Employees May Face Criminal Charges for Bringing Illegal Aliens to the Country for Work
Description Trial court held that a corporation and its employees could face criminal charges for helping to bring illegal aliens into the country to work and for helping them to obtain illegal Social Security cards. They could not be charged with illegally providing identification cards, as Social Security cards are not clearly recognized as such.
Topic Criminal Law
Key Words Immigration; Illegal Aliens; Identification Documents; Vicarious Liability; Lenity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Tyson Foods and some of its employees were charged with criminal violations for misuse of official documents for immigration purposes and for transporting illegal aliens to the U.S. for commercial advantage. Defendants moved to have the charges dismissed, contending that the statute prohibits misuse of “identification documents,” which does not specify Social Security cards to be such a document.
Decision

Because the statute and its legislative history is unclear, under the rule of lenity, a criminal statute is not to be enforced if its meaning is ambiguous. That is the case here, as Social Security cards are not always recognized as identification documents. So that charge is dismissed. However, the charge that defendants illegally helped in obtaining illegal Social Security cards may proceed, as may the charges that defendants aided in bringing and transporting illegal aliens into the country for commercial gain. The rule of vicarious liability would allow such charges to be brought against the principal and its agents.

Citation U.S. v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 258 F.Supp.2d 809 (E.D. Tenn., 2003)

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