Sunday, March 15, 2015


By Julian Aguilar
Texas Tribune

As a House committee endorsed a broad border security bill Wednesday, its members sought to reassure critics who worried the bill would allow for someone to be prosecuted for human smuggling for driving his or her undocumented grandmother home.

House Bill 11 was voted unanimously out of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety following almost four hours of testimony. The legislation seeks to bolster the ranks of the Texas Department of Public Safety, enhance penalties for human smuggling and, ultimately, end the deployment of the Texas National Guard in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.

A floor debate on the measure could be scheduled for as early as next week.

Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, the bill’s author, told committee members that the bill has evolved considerably since it was filed last week. New language laid out Wednesday addresses most of the concerns from the immigrant and faith-based communities, he added.

The original language said that a person could be charged with smuggling if he or she “recklessly” transported or harbored an undocumented immigrant. The bill now says that the person must have “knowingly” smuggled someone for profit to warrant charges.

“If you’re taking a relative [home], they can’t do anything to you,” Bonnen said after the first part of the committee hearing. “Recklessly is ‘I should have known better.’ The knowingly is, ‘I made a conscious choice to smuggle and put them in a harmful situation.’”

Bonnen said that a provision allowing for a person’s right to an affirmative defense to a possible smuggling charge was added back to the bill after being inadvertently omitted. An affirmative defense allows a person the chance to introduce facts or other evidence that negates a criminal charge.

Despite the reassurances, it was clear that confusion about the bill still lingered after the committee reconvened Wednesday afternoon. Several pastors expressed additional concerns about being in violation of the law for “doing God’s work.”

Austin-based Pastor Eugene Hilderbrand said his congregation serves people who might be in the country without documents.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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