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New Fines Supposed to Deter U.S. Smugglers

U.S. citizens who attempt to smuggle people across the U.S. Mexico border now face a $5,000 fine and risk having their vehicle seized. Until now, all but the most egregious offenders have gone largely unpunished. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

The new fines are an attempt to close a loophole human smugglers have long exploited.

Until now, only the very worst smuggling cases have been prosecuted allowing the majority of smugglers half of which are U.S. citizens to get off with little consequence. Smugglers have used this as a sales pitch to recruit people who want to earn fast cash like teenagers, gamblers and the elderly.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Vince Bond hopes the new fine serves as a deterrent.

Bond: "With the advent of this program we now have a tool we can use to stop U.S. citizens from trying to make quick money by smuggling undocumented people."

Smugglers who are not U.S. citizens can be prosecuted, repatriated, or stripped of their green cards.

California accounts for 90 percent of all human smuggling cases nationwide. Amy Isackson, KPBS news.

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