A coalition of Republican-led states told the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday that striking down a federal law making it a crime to encourage illegal immigration would have a domino effect on criminal laws adopted by every state, Reuters reports. Led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen's office, the 25 states in an amicus brief said an appeals court was wrong to rule that the decades-old law violated the free speech provisions of the Constitution's First Amendment. The Supreme Court is considering whether to reverse that ruling, in a case involving Helaman Hansen, a California man who was charged with violating the law by running a sham "adult adoption" program for immigrants. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year said the law, which makes it a crime to encourage or induce illegal immigration, was too broad and could apply to a swath of constitutionally protected speech.
The states said the terms "encourage" and "induce" have a particular meaning in criminal law, and that every state uses them to define an array of criminal conduct. "The Ninth Circuit's decision threatens to upend these criminal laws, undermining the states’ power to create and enforce a criminal code," they said. Knudsen was joined by the attorney generals of Texas, Florida, Georgia and Ohio, among other states. Arguments are scheduled for March 27. The Supreme Court reviewed a separate 9th Circuit ruling striking down the federal law in 2020, but held that the 9th Circuit had no power to consider the free-speech issue because the defendant in that case had not raised it.