A new law in Texas has removed a major barrier to prosecuting human smugglers, who are most often caught driving illegal aliens from the U.S.–Mexico border to larger cities.
As of Sept. 1, prosecutors need not prove “pecuniary gain,” which was often the reason cases were thrown out.
“We don’t have any way to track cases declined for particular issues, but there were a noticeable number,” Suzanne West, district attorney based in the border city of Val Verde, Texas, told The Epoch Times. “The changes … absolutely do make these cases easier to prosecute.”
Pecuniary gain is the money, or benefit, a driver is paid to smuggle illegal aliens from one place to another. To prove it required a confession on most occasions and often a defendant would simply say they were giving the passengers a lift for free.
In reality, cartels recruit smugglers through social media websites and messaging apps promising thousands of dollars for transporting illegal aliens. The drivers tend to be a mix of U.S. citizens and illegal aliens.
Smuggling of humans is a third degree felony offense, punishable for up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 per person being smuggled. The new law lifts the degree of felony if pecuniary gain is proven, if a smuggled person is a minor or if the smuggler has a firearm.
The law also adds a felony charge to anyone who “assists, guides, or directs two or more individuals to enter or remain on agricultural land without the effective consent of the owner.”
Texas State Senator Juan Hinojosa, who sponsored the bill before it became law, represents the Rio Grande Valley, one of the main hubs for human smuggling in Texas.
“There is no doubt that we have a critical situation at the state’s southern border and I have heard firsthand the difficulties that human smuggling brings to local officials and landowners,” Hinojosa stated in a June release.
The state’s Senate Research Center, in its bill analysis, stated that local authorities, law enforcement agencies, and landowners had expressed concern that the current penalties for human smuggling were “inadequate.”
Since President Joe Biden took office, illegal border crossings have hit record-breaking numbers and have increased every month. Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than a million illegal aliens along the southern border since February.
Agents have expressed concern over the unknown number of illegal aliens who have evaded apprehension and are loose in the country.