Smuggling illegal aliens across the U.S. border would become a felony offense punishable by five years in prison - per victim - under legislation introduced today by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Under current law, alien smuggling is a misdemeanor.
Each year, between 700,000 to 800,000 people enter the United States illegally, according to the Pew Research Center. A large number of these illegal crossings are organized by criminal smugglers, yet this year there have been only 2,661 prosecutions under the federal alien smuggling statute.
The Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Law Enforcement Act of 2007 (S. 2463) amends the current alien smuggling statute to make it a felony offense to smuggle, recruit, transport or harbor illegal aliens.
The Bayh-Graham legislation includes even stiffer maximum penalties for those who smuggle for financial gain (10 years); for repeat offenders (15 years); for cases involving physical assault (20 years); terrorism facilitation (30 years) and kidnapping, rape or attempted murder (life).
"Alien smuggling is a transnational crime problem that poses a significant risk to national security and public safety," Senator Bayh said. "Those who break our immigration laws for financial gain deserve more than a slap on the wrist. This legislation sends a message to U.S. attorneys that we want these offenders federally prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law."
"This is an area of immigration reform where the Congress can come together and find common ground," Senator Graham said. "I don't think there's any question the existing penalties for alien smuggling are insufficient. Our legislation will give prosecutors and law enforcement stronger tools to crack down on the terrible trade in human cargo. It will also create a deterrent effect for smuggling people into the United States, particularly for those doing it for profit. The legislation passed the House in an overwhelming fashion. I'm hopeful we can get it to the president's desk in short order."
It is estimated that the international alien smuggling and sex trafficking trade generates $9.5 billion for criminal organizations worldwide, and the profits are used to finance additional criminal enterprises, such as the trafficking of drugs, weapons or other contraband. Smugglers endanger the safety and lives of those who are seeking to enter our country by subjecting them to physical abuse, rape and subjected to deplorable and dangerous conditions by their smugglers.
A companion version of the alien smuggling legislation authored by Congressman Baron Hill (D-IN) passed the House of Representatives in May by a vote of 412-0.