SAN FRANCISCO — A U.S. appeals court struck down a federal immigration law Tuesday that opponents warned could be used to criminalize a wide range of statements involving illegal immigration.
The law made it a felony for someone to encourage an immigrant to enter or live in the U.S. if the person knew either act is illegal.
The law violates the First Amendment because it criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 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., Judge A. Wallace Tashima 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, Tashima said.
“Criminalizing expression like this threatens almost anyone willing to weigh in on the debate,” he said.