State Reps. Gina Johnsen and Cam Cavitt (File)

Michigan Republican’s Eye Combating The Scourge Of Human Smuggling

State Reps. Gina Johnsen and Cam Cavitt (File)
State Reps. Gina Johnsen and Cam Cavitt (File)

The influx of illegal immigrants crossing borders has become a growing concern for every state, including Michigan.

With its strategic location and vast shorelines along the Great Lakes, the state is at heightened risk of becoming a hub for human smuggling operations.

Recognizing the urgency of this matter, Republican lawmakers in Michigan have introduced a comprehensive legislative package aimed at criminalizing human smuggling activities within the state’s jurisdiction.

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It is crucial to distinguish between human smuggling and human trafficking to fully grasp the gravity of the situation.

While both practices involve the exploitation of vulnerable individuals, human smuggling primarily revolves around the illegal transportation of people across international borders for financial gain. In contrast, human trafficking encompasses a broader range of exploitative activities, including forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Presently, Michigan lacks state-level criminal penalties specifically targeting human smuggling operations. This legal void has hindered local law enforcement agencies from effectively combating these illicit activities, leaving them reliant on federal authorities to intervene.

Recognizing this gap, State Representatives Cam Cavitt and Gina Johnsen have spearheaded the introduction of legislation that would align Michigan’s laws with federal statutes, empowering state officials to prosecute human smugglers should federal agencies fail to take action.

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“Criminalizing human smuggling at the state level will guarantee local law enforcement are authorized and equipped to punish the predators illegally transporting people into our state,” said Cavitt, R-Cheboygan. “These new laws will ensure that even if federal leaders continue embracing more and more radical far-left policies, Michigan will be steadfast in punishing anyone who chooses to exploit the vulnerable for personal profit.”

State Rep. Ken Borton announced his support for the plan to criminalize human smuggling in Michigan on Thursday.

“State prosecutors shouldn’t have to wait until smugglers commit heinous acts against vulnerable people before they can prosecute,” said Borton, R-Gaylord. “Helping people illegally enter our country is dangerous and can lead to many unintended consequences. The feds recognize smuggling as a crime, so our state should too.”

The proposed legislative package adopts a comprehensive approach, encompassing not only the act of smuggling itself but also the ancillary activities that facilitate and sustain these operations. Under the proposed laws, harboring and transporting individuals who have entered the country illegally would be classified as criminal offenses, subject to state-level prosecution.

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Proponents of the legislation argue that criminalizing human smuggling at the state level will serve as a powerful deterrent against those who seek to exploit vulnerable individuals for personal gain.

Representative Johnsen underscored the grave dangers associated with human smuggling, citing the risk of abandonment in remote and hazardous areas, exposure to extreme weather conditions, and the potential for severe abuse, including physical violence, sexual assault, and forced labor.

“In Michigan, human smuggling poses significant dangers as our proximity to international borders and Great Lakes ports heightens the risk of victims being abandoned in remote, hazardous areas and exposed to extreme weather conditions,” said Johnsen, R-Lake Odessa. “Smuggled individuals frequently endure severe abuse, including physical violence, sexual assault, and forced labor. This is a real issue and it’s hurting real people. Offenders must be brought to justice.”

The proposed laws aim to address the challenges posed by the state’s extensive international borders and strategic location by granting local law enforcement agencies the authority to prosecute human smugglers.

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Representative Cavitt emphasized the importance of ensuring that even if federal authorities embrace more lenient policies, Michigan will remain steadfast in its commitment to punishing those who exploit vulnerable individuals for personal profit.

Michigan’s efforts to combat human smuggling align with a broader national trend.

Recent data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection reveals a significant increase in the number of migrants apprehended while attempting to cross the northern border illegally.

In 2023 alone, the number of arrests more than tripled compared to the previous year, underscoring the urgency of addressing this issue.

“Our Northeast Michigan community is right on the border with Canada,” Cavitt said. “When we’re talking about dangerous criminals paying to cross the Great Lakes into Michigan, they often are crossing right into our backyards. This crisis is putting our friends and neighbors at risk. We can’t keep waiting for the feds to wake up when they can’t even seem to figure out what day it is. The best way for us to protect our people is to step up and allow our local law enforcement to do the heavy lifting everyone else isn’t willing to do.”

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