Michigan House Republicans
Reps. Cavitt, Johnsen leading charge to end human smuggling
RELEASE|May 21, 2024
Contact: Cam Cavitt

State Reps. Cam Cavitt and Gina Johnsen on Tuesday introduced their plan to criminalize human smuggling in Michigan. Under current law, there is no state-level criminal penalty for human smuggling, only human trafficking.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, human smuggling is transportation based while trafficking is exploitation based.

“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.”

As a border state, Michigan is responsible for over 700 miles of the nation’s northern border. Only Texas and Alaska are responsible for a larger segment of the international border. Nationwide, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reports encounters with illegal immigrants have nearly doubled over the past three years. While much of the smuggling crisis takes place at the U.S. – Mexico Border, encounters at the northern land border have increased by 114% since 2021.

“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.”

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.

“Some smugglers even take to social media to promote their services,” said Johnsen during the press conference. “But their customers have no recourse when they are harmed, abandoned in the smuggling process, or worse, abused, kidnapped, or forced into labor by predators posing as smugglers who never had any intention of helping them gain access to the United States.”

Just last year, U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Detroit Sector arrested five people during a failed smuggling attempt across the St. Clair River. A video monitoring system alerted agents of a boat traveling on the river near a known smuggling route. After their arrest, the individuals admitted to having just crossed the border from Canada. Agents identified two subjects from India and the remainder from Nigeria, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.

“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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