WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Friday said it will hear arguments in the case of a California man who argues the First Amendment protected the false promises he made of a path to U.S. citizenship for hundreds of immigrants in exchange for money.
Helaman Hansen was convicted in 2017 of "encouraging or inducing" illegal immigration, among other crimes, for enrolling at least 471 immigrants in a fraudulent program of "adult adoption" as a way of obtaining citizenship. Hansen charged immigrants up to $10,000 to enroll in his program.
The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled earlier this year that the laws at issue were overbroad and infringed upon protected speech.
Hansen's attorneys successfully argued to the appeals court that laws under which he was convicted criminalize speech protected under the First Amendment. "Merely encouraging someone to engage in illegal activity is protected by the First Amendment," his attorneys told the Supreme Court.
The Biden administration appealed the 9th Circuit ruling in August.
"Laws against incentivizing or procuring civil immigration violations have a particularly long pedigree," the administration told the court. "This court recognized more than a century ago, without discussing the First Amendment, that Congress's power to define the immigration laws goes hand-in-hand with its ability to prohibit encouraging someone to violate those laws."
The case arrives at the nation's highest court two years after a similar dispute resulted in a unanimous opinion overturning the 9th Circuit on a procedural issue that didn't address the underlying First Amendment question.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case sometime next year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court to hear First Amendment case on immigration fraud