Why is smuggling human beings among the worst decisions that a professional truck driver can make?
I feel compelled to define a couple of terms and then cover some information about this topic from the trucking industry’s perspective.
I have found the following defintions of smuggle and smuggling (none of which may be the “legal” definition):
- Merriam-Webster (1 of 2): “to import or export secretly contrary to the law and especially without paying duties imposed by law”.
- Wikipedia: “the illegal transportation of objects, substances, information or people… in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.”
- Cambridge English Dictionary: “the act or process of taking things or people to or from a place secretly and often illegally”.
- Dictionary.com (1 of 2): “to import or export (goods) secretly, in violation of the law, especially without payment of legal duty.”
I see in 3 of these 4 definitions that the smuggling definition directly involves illegal activity.
Human Trafficking Definition
I have found the following human trafficking definitions:
- Department of Homeland Security: “Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: “Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.”
- Department of Justice: “Human Trafficking is a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.” (Greater detail is provided on the page.)
- United States Department of State: “‘Trafficking in persons,’ ‘human trafficking,’ and ‘modern slavery’ are umbrella terms – often used interchangeably – to refer to a crime whereby traffickers exploit and profit at the expense of adults or children by compelling them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex. …”
Smuggling vs. Trafficking
I hope that you can see based on these definitions that the two terms — smuggling and human trafficking — are not interchangeable, although the former can lead to the latter.
Motivations to Smuggle Human Beings
I read the Wikipedia article linked above and saw “various motivations to smuggle.”
I found that most of the motivations have to do with smuggling “goods” and “things”.
Three of the motivations regarding people include: “prostitution, human trafficking, kidnapping”.
I have read and reported since 2017 about two potential reasons for smuggling human beings:
1. The desire to truly want to help people find a better way of life; and
2. The desire to be paid money for each and every person transported.
I believe regarding Point #1 above that while it is commendable to want to help people, that help needs to be legal.
I further believe regarding Point #2 above that earning money off the potential for human suffering is wicked.
I know of no circumstance in which a trucker knowingly smuggled humans without being offered payment for his/her services.
I have also raised the question as to whether some truckers become involved in smuggling without their knowledge.
This might happen if one’s trailer doors are not locked and illegal aliens climbed aboard while the truck was stopped.
As I wrote in my December 21, 2019, TDMST Weekly Round-Up:
To help prevent access to cargo inside a trailer, some truckers use:
- a bar lock (that is locked in place over the bars closest together on both trailer doors) and/or
- a shielded padlock (which is shown on our self storage page).
Smuggling vs. Hitchhiking
I believe that deliberate smuggling with knowledge is completely different from someone hitching a ride (being a “hitchhiker”).
I have seen articles, photos, and even videos of hitchhikers doing the following:
- hiding in the air fairing above the trucker’s tractor;
- standing on the back bumper of the trailer and holding onto the trailer handles while the truck is being driven down the road; and
- rolling down the road behind the trailer in a shopping cart while the person in the cart/device is holding onto the back of the trailer.
Smuggling Demeans Humans
I have stated over and over again that one must never ever treat one’s fellow human beings like cattle or cargo.
In fact, smuggling humans in the back of a trailer that is being transported can lead to:
- temperature-related illness; and/or
I ask you to consider the interior of two common types of trailers used in smuggling people:
- Vans (trailers without refrigeration) have little or no access to fresh air, can become extremely hot in the summer sun, and travling in one can lead to heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and death; and
- Refrigerated trailers (“reefers”) can be set to temperatures that can lead to various cold-related illness, including hypothermia, frostbite, and loss of consciousness.
I know of no one who wants to be treated to either of these extremes!
Problems Associated With Smuggling Human Beings
I would like to get back to wisdom from centuries ago regarding a proper perspective on humans.
In the Bible, in Genesis 1:26-27, we read that the first man (Adam) was created by God — in His image — and then God created woman from man.
In The Declaration of Independence, we read in part:
… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …
So, God created man in His own image and each human being since then has been endowed with unalienable rights by God.
I need to point out that when a right is “unalienable,” that means that it cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor.
I believe that one type of thinking that can lead to smuggling occurs when the smuggler thinks that he/she is more important than those being smuggled.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome (in Romans 12:3) that we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but to think of oneself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.
I think you would agree with me that when one thinks
– more highly of himself/herself
– than he/she thinks of others,
the potential for exploiting the person in the “lower” position can creep in.
I have written before this warning: Being Exploited: Unscrupulous Trucking Companies Trap Truckers.
Can you see that smuggling is a violation of the “Golden Rule” — to do unto others as one would have others do unto them?
I summarize that smuggling people is a failure to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself!
Penalties and Punishments for Smuggling Humans
I speculate that different jurisdictions treat smuggling offenses in different ways.
I further speculate that the penalty or punishment for smuggling varies based on the outcome of the event.
For example, if any people died during the smuggling process, the smuggler may be charged legally for the murder of each and every person who died.
For your convenience, I have linked here to a law office’s question:
“Murder, Manslaughter, or Homicide – What is the difference?”
Media Coverage About Transporting Illegal Aliens
I am taking the liberty of listing here some of the most recent articles about truckers being involved in smuggling people (as of the time this article is being written):
- July 10, 2020: Two teenagers caught smuggling 23 immigrants in semi truck
- April 27, 2022: Border Patrol sniffs out human smuggling scheme after noticing truck driver was ‘nervous’ and ‘in a rush to leave’
- June 29, 2022: Driver who abandoned truck in San Antonio deadly human smuggling attempt arrested, was ‘very high on meth,’ police say
- June 30, 2022: Suspected driver of truck in San Antonio fatal human smuggling case may face death penalty, fourth suspect is charged
- July 8, 2022: Truck driver sentenced to federal prison for smuggling 26 people in locked refrigerated trailer set to 33 degrees
In at least one case, authorities may seek the death sentence as the penalty for smuggling.
Again, if you really want to help people, do so legally and ethically, not putting anyone’s health or life in jeopardy.
I urge you to consider that engaging in smuggling or human trafficking as a professional truck driver can lead to the loss of:
- your freedom,
- your trucking job,
- your trucking career, and
- possibly your life.