Governor Abbott’s recent actions in sending migrants to other cities, while controversial and criticized by some, do not meet the definition of human trafficking. The migrants in question are reportedly being relocated to other cities as a result of overcrowding at border facilities. While the decision to send migrants to other cities may have negative consequences for those individuals, it does not involve any element of exploitation or coercion. But the Texas offense of Smuggling of Persons does not necessarily involve the exploitation of individuals through force, fraud, or coercion for labor or commercial sex.
If Greg Abbot knowingly used a motor vehicle or other means of conveyance to transport an individual with the intent to conceal the individual from a peace officer or special investigator or flee from a person he knew was a peace officer or special investigator attempting to lawfully arrest or detain the actor; OR he encouraged or induced a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection; then he would be guilty of Smuggling of Persons under Texas law.
Governor Abbott reportedly sent migrants by bus to Washington DC. If he knew that the migrants were in this country in violation of federal law, which he claims he knew, then by inducing them to remain in this country with free bus tickets to a destination of their choosing, and by harboring them on the governor’s buses, it is likely that governor committed the felony offense of Smuggling of Persons. There are no exceptions in that law for actions by the governor, and there are no other exceptions that would apply.