For Immediate Release: March 30, 2007
Reps. LaTourette, LoBiondo & Poe Introduce Bill
To Toughen Penalties for Smugglers of Illegal Aliens by Sea
Washington, D.C. Republican Members of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee yesterday introduced the Maritime Law Enforcement Improvement Act of 2007, legislation to provide the Coast Guard with greater authority to apprehend and prosecute those attempting to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States by sea.
The bill, H.R. 1811, was introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH), Ranking Republican on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), and U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX).
The Coast Guard has an incredibly difficult and dangerous job when it comes to these smuggling operations. This new legislation will help the Coast Guard crack down on those who coordinate and finance human smuggling, and make prosecution of these criminals much easier, LaTourette said.
It is critical that we give the U.S. Coast Guard the necessary tools to protect our borders. This legislation will ensure that those who smuggle illegal aliens into our country are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, LoBiondo said.
The fight to end illegal immigration in our country doesnt begin and end at the southern border. Currently it is not a felony to smuggle people into our country if you dont profit from it or harm them in the process. The Maritime Law Enforcement Improvement Act will correct that nonsense and further enforce our immigration laws, Poe said.
The bill would make alien smuggling or the conspiracy or attempt to smuggle aliens into the United States a felony offense under federal law. Under current law, alien smuggling is only a felony offense if the smuggler seeks commercial advantage or private financial gain, or seriously harms or endangers an individual. In the maritime domain, such an offense is often difficult or impossible to prove, and officials frequently must settle for charging smugglers with lesser offenses or no offense at all.
The Maritime Law Enforcement Improvement Act of 2007 would remove obstacles for future prosecutions and create a new federal felony offense that applies to the transportation of an alien illegally seeking to enter the United States aboard a vessel.
* An offense under the bill would be punishable by 3 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
* In cases where a violation results in serious bodily injury to any person involved the offense would be punishable by 7 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000.
* In cases where a violation results in the death of any person involved an offense would carry a prison term of 10 years to life and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000.
* The bill would also order the civil and criminal forfeiture of any vessel that is used to commit a maritime smuggling offense.
H.R. 1811 also significantly enhances the capabilities of the Coast Guard to apprehend and prosecute alien smugglers by giving the agency extraterritorial jurisdiction outside of U.S. waters to gather evidence and conduct investigations.
The bills language is modeled after the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, which has appreciably enhanced the Coast Guards ability to interdict and prosecute drug smugglers bound for the United States. Like the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, this bill would address the shortcomings of existing law that currently impede the prosecution of maritime smugglers.
The legislation is based on a Coast Guard proposal, and the agency has determined this to be one of its highest legislative priorities of the year.
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