The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report this week showing that the federal government prosecuted more than 2,700 human smugglers in FY2014. The feds prosecuted more than half of those in the state of Texas.
During FY2013 (October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014) the DOJ brought cases against 2,763 individuals for human smuggling, according to a DOJ statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. The state of Texas led all others with 1,515 cases. California ranked second with 515, followed by Arizona (394), Florida (75), and New York (31). The DOJ stepped up prosecutions in response to the flood of human smuggling cases from Central and South America last year.
Since 2009, the department has charged more than 18,000 individuals with human smuggling. The penalty in the federal court system can be up to 10 years in prison plus a fine.
In January, Ruth Fernandez Morales-Lopez, aged 21, a U.S. citizen from Los Fresnos, Texas, was sentenced to ten years in prison on a human smuggling conviction. She also is serving an additional 20 years for money laundering. Morales-Lopez admitted that she was the person who decided, based on whether they paid their smuggling fees, which individuals could stay at the “stash house,” located in San Benito, Texas, the DOJ statement reported. Five other defendants pleaded guilty along with her. Each is currently serving ten years in prison.
Another Texan, Eduardo Rocha, Sr., age 44, faces possible life imprisonment in connection with his conviction on charges of human smuggling and extortion. Rocha operated his smuggling cell between Carrizo Springs and Piedras Negras, Mexico since at least 2013. He claimed to be affiliated with Los Zetas, a trans-national Drug Trafficking Organization operating out of Mexico. He, and his co-conspirators, used buildings located at Rocha’s Carrizo Springs property to hold the illegal aliens before transport further into the United States. Witnesses testified that Rocha held the aliens against their will in an effort to extort more money from family members in the United States. Evidence in the case also revealed that Rocha ordered his accomplices to torture the illegal aliens being held captive in an effort to extort money. One female was raped multiple times, and family members were made to listen over the telephone as aliens were tortured with a hammer, and threatened with decapitation and mutilation.
“Many of the cases prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country involve migrants who have been kidnapped, taken hostage, beaten, sexually assaulted, threatened or who have actually died as a result of living under some of the most perilous conditions,” the report stated.
In addition to the prosecutions illustrated above, the DOJ also reports to be working with other countries, including Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico to identify and prosecute human smugglers operating in their countries.
Unfortunately, many who engage in human smuggling are never prosecuted. During a hearing before the Texas Senate in April, Breitbart Texas reported that Border Patrol Agent Hector Garza, president of the National Border Patrol Council, Local 2455, testified about arbitrary numbers used by the government as thresholds for prosecution. Garza told the senators about a policy from the U.S. attorney’s office that says they will not prosecute someone captured who is smuggling six or less illegal immigrants.
While working in Brooks County last summer, Border Patrol agents told this writer the threshold for prosecution was fifteen illegal immigrants. At fourteen or less, the smuggler is simply released.
Garza said the threshold also applies to American citizens who are caught smuggling illegal immigrants. He said if there are five or less, they are simply released with no charges.
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.