Is this illegal
May 11, 2017 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I have heard rumors about people blackmailing undocumented immigrants by saying "pay me $x or I will call ICE and have them pick you up. That has to be a crime, right? If so what statute would that person be charged under?
posted by to sir with millipedes to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It looks like some states have explicitly made laws against it, which implies that if you're not in those states it might not be as prosecutable as one might wish.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:40 PM on May 11


Under federal law I presume it would be covered by the following.

18 U.S.C. § 873 (2015)

§873. Blackmail

Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both
posted by howfar at 12:48 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


I should add that there might well be other, more specific, federal statutes.
posted by howfar at 12:50 PM on May 11


It could constitute extortion - the applicable state statute would depend on the state (here is the statute regarding larceny, incl. by extortion, in NYS).

But -- laws aren't self-enforcing. If the person is actually undocumented, they put themselves and their families at great personal risk reporting a crime and/or testifying in court. ICE has been staking out courtrooms in order to deport complaining witnesses that lack documentation.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:50 PM on May 11 [13 favorites]


Even without the specific language or the law linked by firefoxfey, this would probably be illegal, because it's generally illegal to get money from someone through threat of exposing a legal violation or even a secret that is legal but would subject someone to harm in some way, including ridicule or business harm. Of course, it all depends on the exact law of the jurisdiction you are dealing with. But, for example, this would be illegal under the federal blackmail statute, as well as the first random states' laws I looked up: Ohio and Kentucky.

But the problem with blackmail, of course, is that for the person to be prosecuted, the person being blackmailed has to reveal to the authorities the thing they are being blackmailed about...
posted by alligatorpear at 12:59 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


laws aren't self-enforcing. If the person is actually undocumented, they put themselves and their families at great personal risk reporting a crime and/or testifying in court. ICE has been staking out courtrooms

This is important and bears repeating.
posted by splitpeasoup at 1:03 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


IANAL, but I would check with a law firm that deals with immigration, an immigration advocacy group, or a victim's advocacy group, or maybe the ACLU, to find out more about the "temperature" in your area. There are laws on the books, and then there are the ways that the current political machine chooses to enforce those laws.
As others have said, breaking the law and knowingly abetting someone in breaking the law are also actionable, as are threats of blackmail and extortion toward those who are vulnerable.
Seems like there would be a way to report this crime anonymously. On the other hand, if you are not willing to sign something, the report may be trashed. Again, local politics.
posted by TrishaU at 2:56 AM on May 12


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