FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2003
AUSTIN, TX--In response to recent tragedies in which undocumented immigrants were smuggled into this country in trailers and died from suffocation, the Senate passed a bill today sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. creating a state penalty against transporting human cargo.
"House Bill 2096 (by Rep. Joe Pickett) would make it illegal in Texas for someone to knowingly transport an individual in the back of a trailer or semi-trailer," said Sen. Lucio. "This will allow the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement to get the word out that this sort of activity will not be tolerated in our state."
While the original bill would have made the offense of illegally transporting people a Class C Misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500, Sen. Lucio added an amendment enhancing that penalty to a Class B Misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $2,000 and a jail term not to exceed 180 days. Currently, if state or local law enforcement officers stop a vehicle transporting people in a trailer, they are powerless to charge them with any offense--even a traffic ticket!
The bill does not affect parades, emergencies, farm workers, hay rides or recreational vehicles.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, working with Sen. Lucio, added an amendment establishing human trafficking as a state crime. This bill would also make the trafficking of individuals a second degree felony. If the person "trafficked" is either under 14 years of age or dies in the process, the offense would be raised to a first degree felony. In this legislation, "traffic" is defined as transporting a person or enticing, recruiting, harboring, providing or otherwise obtaining a person for transport by deception, coercion or force.
"This bill is just a small step toward curbing the human suffering and tragedies we've seen," added Sen. Lucio. "Texas is taking action to stop this deplorable treatment of our fellow human beings."
Note: Staff member handling bill is Mario Cruz, legislative aide. The House must agree to changes next.