A new Texas law makes it easier to prosecute human smugglers by removing the requirement to prove the intent to obtain a “pecuniary benefit.” The bill also makes it a 3rd Degree Felony to “assist, guide, or direct” migrants to enter or remain on agricultural land without the consent of the owner.
Senate Bill 576 eases the burden on Texas prosecutors to put human smugglers in prison by removing the state’s burden of proving the “intent to obtain a pecuniary benefit” from the elements of the crime, according to the bill authored by State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott (R). The new law went into effect on September 1.
Previously, prosecutors had to prove the smuggler received or intended to receive some financial gain. The pecuniary clause can now be utilized by prosecutors to enhance the charge to a 2nd Degree Felony, the bill states. Carrying a firearm while smuggling migrants will now also increase the penalty level.
The new law also makes it a 3rd degree felony if the smuggler “assists, guides, or directs two or more individuals to enter or remain on agricultural land without the effective consent of the owner.” Human smugglers frequently move migrants through farms and ranches in South Texas in an effort to avoid apprehension or circumvent Border Patrol checkpoints.
The bill comes as Texas battles the massive surge of illegal border crossings following the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January. Many Democrat elected officials along the Rio Grande have spoken out against the president’s policies that led to more than 1 million migrants being apprehended between February and August.
Suzanne West, a district attorney in Val Verde, Texas, told the Epoch Times the new law will make it easier to prosecute.
“We don’t have any way to track cases declined for particular issues, but there were a noticeable number,” West explained. “The changes … absolutely do make these cases easier to prosecute.”
Following the signing of the law in June, Senator Hinojosa said, “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. SB 576 is designed to target human smugglers who are a threat to both smuggled individuals and people who live in the remote areas along the border.”
In July, Breitbart Texas reported on the frustration of Texas farmers and ranchers who must deal with the damage caused by human smugglers crashing through fences and destroying property.
Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening explained how different the current border crisis is compared to previous spikes in border crossings.
“The brashness and expectations of the people is different than years ago,” the Farm Bureau president concluded. “We often hear about the unaccompanied minors and family units that actually give themselves up to authorities, but there are also groups of young male adults moving through carrying backpacks and accompanied by a coyote with an automatic weapon. Do we really think these folks are looking for asylum or work?”
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.