A 45-12 months-old Mexican immigrant, who faces many years in federal jail for illegally getting into the region after remaining deported, is now hard the constitutionality of the federal law he is accused of breaking, according to a motion to dismiss filed in federal court docket in Illinois.

In May well 2021, Efrain Leonides-Seguria was convicted of driving under the influence in Prepare dinner County. A thirty day period afterwards, immigration officers arrested Leonides-Seguria and charged him with illegally re-entry, a federal crime publishable with up to 20 a long time. Leonides-Seguria entered the nation devoid of inspection in 1997 for the 1st time. His attorney said in courtroom filings Leonides-Seguria built a existence in the United States in which his daughters, son and grandchildren live. In 2009, he was deported. A calendar year afterwards, on two individual instances, he was caught in the U.S. at the Texas border and deported again to Mexico every single time. By re-getting into the U.S. after obtaining been deported, Leonides-Seguria experienced committed the federal criminal offense of unlawful reentry. In 2011, he was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. He gained the exact same sentence in 2012 for his next offense, according to files filed by prosecutors and his protection law firm.

“Illegal reentry statute violates the Equal Security clause of the constitution, in that it was handed by Congress with a discriminatory objective, and has resulted in a disparate effects upon the focused inhabitants below, Mexicans and a lot more broadly, Latinx persons,” stated Anthony Burba, a lover at Barnes & Thornburg LLP.

Above the past two decades, unlawful reentry has become one particular the top rated federal convictions. In 2019, the U.S. Division of Justice declared the agency prosecuted the greatest range of immigrants for illegal reentry in extra than 25 many years. That yr, above 25,000 immigrants were prosecuted for moving into the region illegally following remaining deported.

“The Illegal Reentry Legislation offers unfair, oppressive leverage to individuals employers and leaves no lawful recourse for the exploited immigrants. Worse, that is why the regulation was passed and why the regulation persists to this working day,” Burba wrote in the motion to dismiss.

The legal argument contains historical files and professional testimony and even documentation from similar conditions in federal courts in other states.

“This circumstance is element of a set of legal problems that have been brought all about the state, arguing that the unlawful reentry legislation is unconstitutional simply because it violates equal defense, it was enacted for discriminatory intent, and it today has a discriminatory outcome,” stated Judith Miller, a former federal criminal protection legal professional and law professor at the University of Chicago.

For decades, Miller represented immigrants dealing with unlawful reentry.

“I managed a large amount of illegal reentry instances, you know, learning this historical past, it’s just extraordinarily disturbing,” Miller said. “I don’t forget standing in a courtroom and I would appear more than to the facet of the courtroom, and you can see what is going on although you are there. There is a line of brown men, all of whom are pleading responsible, just one ideal just after an additional to unlawful reentry. Going through it is disturbing.”

Miller estimates that the once-a-year value for taxpayers affiliated with sending immigrants to federal prison for unlawful reentry is roughly $500 million.

Publicly out there information does not involve countrywide origin details for immigrants prosecuted beneath unlawful reentry or Section 1326 of the federal statutes. But far more than 97% of the immigrants apprehended at the border in 2000 ended up of Mexican descent and 87% in 2010, according to the submitting.

Immigrants who overstay their visas do not deal with unlawful reentry criminal fees. About 90% of men and women who overstay their visas are from nations around the world outside the house Central America and Mexico, Miller claimed.

“There’s a difference in between civil regulation and criminal regulation. So it is not, in truth, a federal crime simply just to be existing in the United States without authorization,” Miller clarifies. “The difference concerning breaking an immigration regulation versus breaking a legal legislation, like unlawful reentry, if you break an immigration law, the consequence is you can be deported or taken out from the United States. Clearly, that can be devastating for an individual but you’re not despatched to jail. If you break a legal legislation, like unlawful reentry, you can be sent to jail for any place from up to two a long time, 10 decades, 20 decades.”

The main of the legal argument from illegal reentry will come from the law’s racist history, opponents argue.

Kelly Lytle Hernández is a history professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and a 2019 recipient of a MacArthur Basis genius grant. She delivered skilled testimony for the Leonides-Seguria case and a different situation complicated unlawful reentry in Nevada.

“The archival record marks the criminalization of unauthorized entry as a racially inspired act that immediately sent racially disparate results,” she wrote about the origin and legacy of the Unlawful reentry federal charge.

Lytle Hernández has executed considerable research and written textbooks about the heritage of the legislation, which include the deliberations that led to its enactment and the political local weather surrounding that discussion.

Congress began to criminalize moving into the place without having authorization in 1929. Around that time, tens of countless numbers of Mexican laborers crossed the border every single calendar year to perform.

“In a 10 years now remembered as the ‘Tribal Twenties’ — a time when the Ku Klux Klan was reborn, Jim Crow arrived of age, and general public intellectuals preached the science of eugenics — lots of representatives, in particular individuals commonly identified as ‘Nativists,’ hoped to restrict and even conclusion immigration to the United States from every single location of the earth other than western Europe,” Lytle Hernandez wrote. “In the past, they argued, slaveholders experienced produced a terrible slip-up by importing Africans to the nation in the blind pursuit of gain. Absolutely nothing could be performed to undo the tragedy of slavery — the introduction of Africans to the nation, that is — but, they hoped, new immigration legislation would restrict the future peopling of the United States.”

By 1924, the National Origins Act was approved setting limits on the amount of immigrants authorized from every single country each individual calendar year. American historian John Higham described the new quota process as a “Nordic victory.” But the quota threatened the Mexican labor source.

“As the president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce explained, ‘We are fully dependent … upon Mexico for agricultural and industrial popular or casual labor. It is our only source of source,’” Lytle Hernández wrote.

Beneath stress from businesses who needed Mexican labor, Congress authorized Mexican immigrants to enter the place but expected them to pay back a tax, go a literacy examination and overall health examination. But the decision was fulfilled with resistance from politicians who favored white immigrants.

“As one particular congressmen complained during the 1924 hearings, ‘what is the use of closing the entrance door to continue to keep out undesirables from Europe when you permit Mexicans to appear in listed here by the back again doorway by the 1000’s and 1000’s?’” Lytle Hernández wrote.

Politicians experimented with to limit the quantity of Mexican immigrants, by warning white Americans that Mexicans ended up racially inferior, and identified as them “mongrels.” Lytle Hernández cited at minimum two bills in the 1920s that tried to restrict the movement of Mexican staff. Advocates of individuals bills warned, “our excellent Southwest is speedily generating for itself a new racial dilemma, as our outdated South did when it imported slave labor from Africa,” Lytle Hernández wrote.

Numerous Mexican migrants evaded the tax and assessments by crossing the border with out inspection.

In the course of these many years, Mexican immigrants from Texas to California faced discrimination, in accordance to Lytle Hernández’s investigate.

“White and Mexicano kids attended separate and unequal educational institutions. Poll taxes and political bosses proficiently disenfranchised Mexicano voters. Mexicans had limited employment selections outdoors of agriculture. Law enforcement violence in opposition to Mexicanos was typical. And, wherever it was most substantial, ‘No Negroes, Mexicans, or Dogs’ symptoms were posted on cafe doors,” she wrote.

By 1929, U.S. Senator Coleman Livingston Blease, from South Carolina — who is explained in Lytle Hernández’ analysis as “a very pleased and unreconstructed white supremacist” — proposed a bill criminalizing unlawful entry to the U.S., citing the massive variety Mexicans crossing the border with out authorization.

Underneath Blease’s proposal, getting into the place unlawfully would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 good and/or up to just one year in jail. And returning to the U.S. immediately after deportation grew to become a felony publishable by a $1,000 fantastic and/or up to two decades in prison, in accordance to Lytle Hernández’s study.

The enterprise group embraced the invoice. S. Parker Frisselle of the California Farm Bureau Federation said, “We, in California, would greatly prefer some set up in which our peak labor requires may be satisfied and on the completion of our harvest these laborers returned to their country.”

The bill passed in March 1929. An altered model of that monthly bill was component of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. That law is now recognized as Section 1326, far better acknowledged as illegal reentry..

Previous August, federal judge Miranda Du dismissed an unlawful reentry charge against Gustavo Carrillo-Lopez, who was deported in 1999 and 2012. Carrillo-Lopez utilised the identical legal argument supplied by Leonides-Seguria — that illegal reentry violates the equal protection clause.

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office environment declined to remark about the ongoing scenario in Illinois.

But the company has challenged Du’s selection.

“The court docket fully commited a threshold lawful mistake by probing the motives of legislators many years back rather than examining the current statute under the rational-basis regular, which is the metric that governs equivalent-protection worries to legal guidelines — these kinds of as Segment 1326 — that pertain to immigration controls,” read the government’s charm submitted in November 2021.

María Inés Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Course and Communities desk. Observe her @mizamudio.