What Is Human Smuggling in Texas?

Two men trading money with a smuggled woman in the background

Human smuggling, particularly in areas like Texas, has become a significant legal and humanitarian issue. When discussing “what is human smuggling,” it’s vital to differentiate it from human trafficking, another endemic issue that affects the state. 

Human smuggling involves the illegal transportation of individuals across borders, typically with their consent, aiming for monetary gain. It’s a federal crime that carries severe legal penalties, including imprisonment, hefty fines, and even forfeiture of assets used in the smuggling operations.

In this article, Javier Guzman, founding attorney of Guzman Law Firm and skilled federal criminal defense attorney in Laredo, TX, will aim to shed light on human smuggling charges and the penalties associated with convictions in Texas — a state with a long border and numerous entry points that are often exploited by smugglers. 

What is the definition of smuggling in Texas?

The laws regarding the smuggling of persons in Texas are defined by Texas Penal Code § 20.05 as the intentional transportation or movement of an individual across a border, involving at least one point in Texas, without authorization from the U.S. government. This includes undocumented immigrants, aliens with no legal status in the country, and even U.S. citizens who are being transported for illegal purposes.

It also includes, “encouraging or inducing a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection.”

The severity of smuggling charges can escalate quickly when aggravating factors are involved. For instance, if the smuggling operation leads to bodily harm or puts the life of the smuggled individual at risk, the legal consequences become significantly harsher. Additionally, repeat offenses or smuggling operations that involve minors can lead to increased penalties, including longer prison terms and larger fines.

Human smuggling vs. human trafficking

The terms human smuggling and trafficking are often used interchangeably, but there are distinct differences between the two activities. So, what is the key difference between human smuggling and human trafficking? 

Human smuggling involves the illegal transportation of individuals across borders with their consent, usually for financial gain. In contrast, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where individuals are forced or deceived into labor or sexual exploitation against their will. Human trafficking does not necessarily involve crossing international borders and can occur within a country’s own borders.

Learn more about the difference between smuggling and trafficking

What is the penalty for smuggling in Texas?

Punishments for human smuggling charges in Texas vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of the crime, but they are always incredibly severe. Here is a table that outlines what happens if you get caught smuggling immigrants, including jail time and fines.

OffenseChargeMaximum fineMaximum jail sentence
Smuggling not for profitThird-degree felony$250,000Up to 5 years
Smuggling for profitSecond-degree felony$250,000Up to 10 years
Smuggling involving serious bodily injurySecond-degree felony$250,000Up to 20 years
Smuggling involving deathFirst-degree felony$250,000Life in prison

These penalties can increase significantly in cases where the smuggling operation results in bodily harm, the smuggling of a minor, or if the individual has prior convictions. It’s also important to note that federal charges can apply, which may carry their own set of penalties including longer prison terms and higher fines.

It’s also important to note that there are natural consequences beyond the “smuggling of persons” Texas punishments. For example, if you are a U.S. citizen and smuggle someone into or out of the country knowing that person is in the country illegally, you may lose your citizenship. Additionally, having a felony on your record can greatly impact future employment, custody arrangements, housing, and other opportunities.

How is Texas addressing human smuggling?

Texas has taken significant steps to address human smuggling within its borders through rigorous legislation and heightened law enforcement activities. Most recently, the state has been fighting to pass multiple controversial immigration laws both known as Senate Bill 4 (SB 4). 

These laws would allow Texas state and local law enforcement to arrest and deport people who are in the state illegally and increase minimum jail time for alien smuggling offenses from two years to ten years, among other changes. 

The federal government has pushed back on these proposed pieces of legislation, claiming that they alone should have the exclusive right to enforce immigration law, and that giving the power to arrest and prosecute to the state authorities sets a precedent for untold profiling and discrimination. As of writing this, the laws have not yet been fully implemented due to ongoing legal challenges.

Regardless of what happens with SB 4, Texas takes the issue of human smuggling seriously and has dedicated massive amounts of resources to combatting alien smuggling crimes. This means that anyone being faced with a transporting illegal immigrants in Texas charge must hire the best human smuggling lawyer they can find if they want to protect their rights and freedom.

Facing human smuggling charges in Texas? Don’t leave your future to chance.

In short, what is human smuggling in Texas? Human smuggling refers to the act of aiding individuals in illegally crossing international borders, typically in exchange for financial compensation.

If you are facing human smuggling charges in Texas, it is important to understand the severity of these charges and make sure you equip yourself with a relentless attorney by your side.

At Guzman Law Firm, we understand the gravity of your situation and are ready to defend your rights with the tenacity and experience you deserve. Whether you’re grappling with the complexities of SB 4 or are under investigation for smuggling illegal immigrants in Texas, our skilled team is here for you.

Contact us today by calling (956) 516-7198 or get in touch online to start the process of securing your freedom and your future.

More Helpful Articles by Guzman Law Firm: