Being an undocumented immigrant is a criminal offense
Being in the U.S. without permission is a civil violation, not a criminal offense
The simple act of being in the United States without permission from immigration authorities is a civil violation, not a criminal offense. In a 2010 document, the American Civil Liberties Union responded to the question, “Is the fact of being present in the United States in violation of the immigration laws a crime?” It answered:
No. The act of being present in the United States in violation of the immigration laws is not, standing alone, a crime. While federal immigration law does criminalize some actions that may be related to undocumented presence in the United States, undocumented presence alone is not a violation of federal criminal law.
Conservatives including Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) have acknowledged this fact. Christie did so at a forum in 2008 when he was a federal prosecutor, and Giuliani made this clear during a 2007 interview with right-wing radio and television host Glenn Beck.