Michigan House Republicans
Rep. Borton backs plan to criminalize human smuggling
RELEASE|May 23, 2024
Contact: Ken Borton

State Rep. Ken Borton on Thursday announced his support for a plan to criminalize human smuggling in Michigan. Under current law, there is no state-level criminal penalty for human smuggling, only human trafficking.

The legislative package, introduced by Reps. Cam Cavitt and Gina Johnsen, would adopt federal human smuggling laws at the state level, allowing state officials to prosecute smugglers should federal officials fail to do so. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, human smuggling is transportation based while trafficking is exploitation based.

“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.”

Experts say human smuggling is oftentimes a gateway to the horrors of human trafficking, including forced labor and sex trafficking. Smuggling routes often are extremely hazardous and vulnerable people being smuggled lack access to medical care and live in unsanitary conditions. 

Recent reporting revealed a significant increase in human smuggling from Canada into the U.S. in recent years. Investigations uncovered attempts to smuggle people into Michigan by scuba diving across the Detroit River, snowmobiling across remote terrain and frozen waterways, or even via homemade submarines.

“I can assure you these smugglers don’t have the safety of the people they’re transporting at top of mind when they’re making these dangerous trips,” Borton said. “All they want is to get paid and move on to their next victims as quickly as possible. Smugglers are willing to cut corners and put people in terrible situations all so they can make a few extra dollars.”


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