TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Smuggling illegal immigrants into Florida is not against state law, but the House has unanimously passed a bill to change that.
Human smuggling already is a federal crime, but state and local law enforcement officers cannot arrest suspects they may come across - often while patrolling state waters.
That's allowed suspects to get away before federal agents can arrive.
The bill passed Friday would permit state and local officers to arrest smugglers and charge them with a first-degree misdemeanor.
The likely scenario, though, is they'd then be turned over to federal authorities.
The maximum penalty under the bill would be a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
It now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill (SB 502) is awaiting a vote.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)