Mexican Government Funds Legal Defense For Migrants Facing Human Smuggling Charges In Florida

The Mexican government has stepped in to provide financial support for the legal defense of illegal migrants facing human smuggling charges and potentially lengthy prison sentences under Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recently enacted law aimed at curbing illegal migration. Senate Bill 1718 (SB 1718), signed into law by DeSantis in May 2023, mandates employers to use an E-verify system for checking employment eligibility, bars undocumented migrants from obtaining driver’s licenses, and increases penalties for human smuggling.

Following the law’s implementation last July, several migrants, including 41-year-old Raquel Lopez Aguilar, were apprehended by Florida law enforcement and highway patrol officials. Aguilar, who has been imprisoned since his arrest for transporting illegal aliens employed as roofers, faces up to 20 years in prison. However, the Mexican government has been covering his legal expenses, as reported by the Guardian.

Juan Sabines, a Mexican Consul in Orlando, expressed confidence in Aguilar’s case, telling 10 Tampa Bay, “We will win this case,” and asserting that “nobody is illegal in this world.”

Under SB 1718, human smuggling is defined as “knowingly transporting five or more illegal aliens or a single illegal alien minor.” Those found guilty of human smuggling face a second-degree felony, a potential $10,000 fine, and up to 15 years in prison.

NPR correspondent Greg Allen reported that the “arresting officer said he stopped” Aguilar’s van “because it had, quote, ‘obviously darker-than-legal hint on the rear windows, and the windshield had several large cracks.'”

In May, U.S. District Judge Roy Altman issued a ruling prohibiting Florida law enforcement officials from enforcing the portion of SB 1718 that defines the transportation of illegal migrants as human smuggling. Altman is expected to hear arguments later in June regarding whether to maintain his ruling banning the enforcement of this aspect of the law.