10 dead in smuggling operation: A reminder that Thune’s trafficking bill is too narrow

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The act of smuggling or trafficking human beings for any reason is a crime against humanity itself, in every way imaginable. The ripple effects these crimes create are so far-reaching, and so devastating to those they touch, it’s no wonder criminals who participate in it are some of the most reviled pieces of filth on earth.

Shutterstock 180376949 2017 07 24 09 26Sunday morning, a reefer trailer with 39 people inside was found in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas. The unit had been parked for some time, and the reefer wasn’t on. Apparently, the driver of the truck, now in custody, was present when police found eight dead in the trailer. Two others died later. Some 20 others were hospitalized.

Cars were reported to be coming and going before the police got there, the drivers picking up people, like lumpers from hell unloading live freight.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last. Such horrendous events are the reason our lawmakers feel the need to come down hard on people who participate in such abhorrent behavior, no matter what legal term we hang on it. It’s also the reason we don’t think the anti-trafficking bill, sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and others, has gone far enough.

There will always be people willing to pay for illegal transport and there will always be people who take that money, whether they hold a CDL, personal driver’s license, boating license, pilot’s license or broker’s license. It’s prudent to end the misuse of any form of transport, not just trucks pulling trailers. Thune’s bill doesn’t go beyond targeting commercial vehicle operators.

Here’s where we do need to split hairs and get the language correct.

This tragedy shows that there was use of more than one form of transportation license during commission of the crimes. It also reminds us that trafficking victims are unwilling victims, while smuggling operations involve willing participants. This one appears to be a “smuggling” operation, not trafficking, but that’s splitting hairs no one with a heart or soul is going to care about when they read the headlines, “9 Dead in Tractor Trailer.” Regardless of the category, no human being deserves to be locked in a trailer to die.

This smuggling operation that turned tragic hits the trucking industry in the gut. Yet provided early statements to police hold up, this was not just the effort of one truck driver. Following back through the chain of each immigrant’s circumstances will show  many more fingerprints, each of whose owners deserves to pay deeply for this completely predatory event.