FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. Imagine you get a call from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Your nephew, niece, grandchild, son, or daughter has been found trying to cross the border illegally. You didn’t know your family member was trying to cross. You were not involved in their crossing. However, ICE has called you because your loved one has nowhere to turn and nowhere to stay. Of course, you take your loved one in. Days later, you get a letter from ICE accusing you of several federal crimes—including conspiracy, visa fraud, and human smuggling. These are serious charges that can put not only your own legal status in jeopardy, but also your freedom and reputation on the line. According to ProPublica, the Trump administration has changed how ICE cracks down on guardians and family who pay coyotes or human smugglers. Disturbingly, family members caught in the middle have become the “collateral damage” of this crackdown. In fact, reports have been made that suggest that any family members ICE encounters could be targets for immigration and law enforcement.

The crackdown could exacerbate problems for immigrant youth. Families who fear being targeted may not take these loved ones in, thus increasing the risk that immigrant youth will become homeless. Families who are just trying to help a young one may do so, but at an immense legal cost to themselves. Criminal federal charges are serious. If you are facing arrest or charges, consider speaking to the Fort Lauderdale, Florida criminal defense lawyer at Michael D. Weinstein, P.A. Federal criminal charges could impact your visa, your freedom, and could impact your ability to secure federal or local aid.

According to ProPublica, 90 percent of youth detained at the border are released to family members. Under the Obama administration, ICE was explicitly told to not target family who claim youth at the border.

The Miami Herald reports that parents may pay smugglers to bring their children to the border. Critics of the new enforcement policy claim that immigration enforcement is moving from targeted enforcement that directs resources at legitimate threats, to a broader enforcement that allows ICE to target any immigrant it comes across. What’s also concerning is the use of criminal law to target family members who are here legally. Family who pay human smugglers are not human smugglers themselves, but they may face the full seriousness of the charges under the law.

In fact, the new enforcement strategy has some individuals who work in ICE and the Office of Refugee Resettlement worried about the impact of their actions. Already, we’ve seen a wave of individuals who have chosen to resign from their posts due to worrisome changes effected by the Trump Administration.

With Trump’s “law and order” presidency in full force, individuals who face criminal charges are more vulnerable than ever. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it is important to protect your rights. Consider speaking to the criminal defense attorneys at Michael D. Weinstein, P.A. today.