PHOENIX, AZ (January 19, 2011) – State Representative Ted Vogt (R – LD30) has proposed legislation that substantially toughens penalties for organizers of major human smuggling rings. Under current law, an operator of multiple “drop houses” faces the same penalty as a smuggler running a single house. Vogt’s bill, HB 2405, will modify existing human smuggling statutes along the lines of laws against criminal street gangs, which allow prosecutors to differentiate leaders and organizers of criminal operations from lower level offenders.
“We need to give our law enforcement authorities the tools they need to successfully and effectively go after the kidnapping kingpins who organize and profit from this heinous crime,” said Vogt, whose district covers portions of Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise Counties in Southern Arizona. “This legislation will send a clear message that the state of Arizona is not going to tolerate human smuggling and the immense suffering it creates for those who are controlled and held captive by these criminals.”
Representative Vogt noted that Phoenix recently had the unfortunate distinction of being second only to Mexico City in the number of reported kidnapping cases. A bill similar to Vogt’s is also expected to be offered shortly in the Arizona State Senate. If approved, the proposed legislation will result in greater prison time and fines in cases where prosecutors can allege multiple acts of human smuggling and prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery praised Representative Vogt’s legislative effort, stating “This bill appropriately targets the criminals who account for the greatest number of human smuggling operations. If we can take these operators out of the picture, we can have a proportionately greater impact in reducing the incidence of this crime in our County and throughout the state.”