Convicted human smuggler Martel Valencia-Cortez was believed to have assaulted a San Diego Border Patrol agent with a rock earlier this year. It is believed that Cortez had threw a rock at the agent at a human smuggling event, who thereafter fired his weapon at Cortez. He was allegedly caught smuggling 14 illegal aliens into California. Cortez was somehow able to escape back to Mexico while the 14 illegal aliens were taken into custody. Cortez is currently on the run, and is evidently well-known in the area. He has been allegedly smuggling people over the border since 1997 and was recently released from prison from a three year smuggling charge in September.
Cortez is considered armed and dangerous by officials. Additionally, he is now believed to be connected to “El Tigre,” a lieutenant in the Sinaloa Drug Cartel a by U.S. Border Patrol.
Human Trafficking in California
Federal law makes it a crime to smuggle or help smuggle (bring in) someone into the United States if they are not a citizen. See Sections 274(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is a felony punishable by imprisonment of 10 years and a fine. The penalty also gets multiplied by the number of people one is convicted of attempting to smuggle in.
In California, Penal Code § 236.1 addresses the crime of “human trafficking.” The Code defines human trafficking as:
- Bringing people into the U.S. to exploit them for labor;
- Depriving someone of their personal liberty as it pertains to sexual exploitation or child sexual exploitation;
- Persuading or trying to persuade someone to engage in a commercial sex act (ie. prostitution).
Human trafficking is a Class C felony in California. However, back in 2012, California voters passed Proposition 35 (the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act”), which provided for even harsher penalties. Now if you are convicted of human trafficking to obtain forced labor services, you will face five to 12 years imprisonment and a fine up to $500,000. If you are convicted of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, child pornography, or extortion, the term of imprisonment increases to 8 to 20 years, a fine of $500,000 and a requirement of joining the sex offender registry. Lastly, if you are convicted of persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, you will be facing 15 years to life imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and a sex offender registration. Continue reading