Mexican Government Supports Migrant Facing Charges in Florida

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The Mexican government is backing a lawsuit for illegal migrants in Florida facing human smuggling charges and potential prison time under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s law aiming to curb illegal migration.

Following the implementation of the law last July, several migrants, including 41-year-old Raquel Lopez Aguilar, were apprehended by Florida law enforcement and highway patrol officials. Aguilar has been jailed since his arrest for transporting undocumented workers employed as roofers and could face up to 20 years in prison. The Mexican government has been covering his legal expenses, according to The Guardian.

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, waves as he arrives to a news conference in Matlacha, Florida, on Oct. 5, 2022. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, waves as he arrives at a news conference in Matlacha, Florida, on Oct. 5, 2022. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“We will win this case,” said Juan Sabines, a Mexican Consul in Orlando, stating to 10 Tampa Bay, “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.” Penalties include a second-degree felony, a possible $10,000 fine, and up to 15 years in prison.

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

Raquel Lopez Aguilar was driving a van with six other people on board when he was pulled over by state troopers in August. The arresting officer said he stopped the van because it had, quote, “obviously darker-than-legal tint on the rear windows, and the windshield had several large cracks.” Border Patrol agents were called. The report says Lopez Aguilar told them he and the others were traveling from Georgia to Tampa. He was arrested and charged with four counts of human smuggling. Lopez Aguilar’s defense is being paid for by the Mexican government under a program that provides legal help to nationals in the U.S. Mexico’s consul in Orlando has called Lopez Aguilar’s arrest, quote, “complete injustice.” He’s visited Lopez Aguilar in jail and has scheduled a news conference tomorrow. Lopez Aguilar is believed to be the first person arrested under a Florida law. If convicted, he would face up to five years in prison on each of the four counts of human smuggling. When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the law in May, he bragged it was the toughest migrant legislation in the country.

U.S. District Judge Roy Altman issued a ruling in May blocking law enforcement officials in Florida from enforcing the section of SB 1718 defining the transportation of illegal migrants as human smuggling, according to Florida Phoenix. Altman is expected to hear arguments later in June on whether he should maintain his ruling banning the enforcement of the human smuggling section of SB 1718.

Texas and Florida Highway Patrol troopers arrest a group of migrants along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Randy Clark/Truth Voices Texas)

Texas and Florida Highway Patrol troopers arrest a group of migrants along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Randy Clark/Truth Voices Texas)

DeSantis’s migration law has faced substantial criticism from those arguing it has led to a shortage of migrant workers willing to work for low wages in the state. In July 2023, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Farmworker Association of Florida, and the American Immigration Council filed a lawsuit against DeSantis’s migration reform law.

The groups argued that DeSantis’s law penalized “a wide array of conduct that Congress chose not to prohibit,” and also “impedes the federal immigration scheme by preventing immigrants from entering Florida.”

While the law is seen as harmful to undocumented migrants in Florida who might be willing to work for lower pay, DeSantis’s migration reform law is viewed as beneficial for American workers by lowering housing costs and forcing businesses to increase wages for employees.

Mexico has long supported illegal migration into the United States and maintains offices in various U.S. cities to assist Mexicans with gaining legal status and sending money back to Mexico. DeSantis’s law is a target for Mexico because SB 1718 makes it more challenging for employers to hire Mexican migrants willing to accept low wages over better-paid American workers.

Elizabeth Weibel
Elizabeth Weibel
Maryland raised. Virginia based.

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