Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that allows flexibility when charging an individual with human smuggling, while at the same time adding to the ways a person can violate the previous law.
The bill, SB-576 takes away the requirement for an offender to be seeking monetary gain for transporting, hiding, evading, or trying to aid someone to escape law enforcement. The bill also includes ways in which an individual can violate the statute.
"This all makes it easier to arrest and to prosecute human smugglers. This law also increases criminal penalties for human smuggling, especially when payment is involved in that process," Abbott said at a Wednesday news conference.
The amendment to the previous statute makes it a third-degree felony to aid or direct more than one person "to enter or remain on agricultural land without the effective consent of the owner," increases smuggling an individual "for pecuniary benefit" to a third-degree felony and increases the maximum jail time for offenses from 10 years to 20.
"Any operation that imposes stiffer fines or jail time for individuals is a deterrent, and we appreciate the assistance that we can get," Border Patrol agent Jesse Moreno said in a statement.
The amendment to the law comes as the Texas border has over 10,000 illegal immigrants that have crossed from Mexico into Texas and are currently camped under the Del Rio International Bridge. The Department of Homeland Security reports that as of Wednesday 1,719
immigrants have been deported back to Hait, most of which are single men and women, while families are being released.