COLUMNS

87th Legislative Session Update

Rep. JM Lozano

Momentum has started to pick up in the Texas Legislature over the last few weeks. Many of the bills I introduced this session have already had a committee hearing and a few are already scheduled for a vote on the House floor. However, I wanted to focus on a bill that was laid out before the house committee on Criminal Jurisprudence this Monday: HB 687. This bill is designed to target human smugglers and protect both their victims and our community from the actions of smugglers.

What HB 687 does is remove the monetary benefit requirement needed to prosecute a person with human smuggling that currently exists under the law. This requirement is often difficult to do because it is often difficult to have smuggling victims testify against their abusers. Removing this requirement will make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute human smugglers and keep them out of our community. Additionally, HB 687 enhances the crimes of human smuggling in possession of a firearm and fleeing from law enforcement from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. This enhancement has the effect of allowing a judge to sentence an offender to a maximum of 20 years instead of the current 10 years. This enhancement will act as a powerful deterrent against these crimes.

Human smuggling is a very serious and real issue to us here in South Texas; it is an issue that we are all too familiar with. We have all seen the horrific news stories of children and the elderly found stranded in the desert or of our neighbor’s property damaged by smugglers.  HB 607 is a powerful step in the right direction in protecting our community members and smuggling victims.