Migrants sneaking illegally into the United States from countries other than Mexico are renting families—mostly small children—to ensure that if they are apprehended, they won’t be deported, but released back into the United States, a top immigration official said yesterday.
The “rent-a-family” scheme, said John P. Torres, director of the Office of Detention and Removal at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is being used by alien smugglers along the U.S.-Mexico border—mainly in Texas—to circumvent a new expedited-removal program for non-Mexican aliens, whose arrest under existing deportation policies had become known as “catch-and-release.”
“They are passing themselves off as a family, paying to have children smuggled with them across the border, because the smugglers know we’re not going to break up a family for the deportation process,” Mr. Torres said. “They’re renting babies—the younger the better—including those not yet of speaking age.
“They get processed as a family and released together, under the law, pending an immigration hearing,” Mr. Torres said.
Illegal aliens from Mexico are usually returned across the border within hours if they have no criminal record, and while U.S. immigration authorities—facing a flood of illegal aliens—have not been hesitant to subject individual OTMs to the expedited-removal process, they have been reluctant to break up non-Mexican migrant families because of a lack of detention space to house them as a unit.
“This rent-a-family scheme is simply an effort to defeat the expedited-removal program because it is working,” Mr. Torres said.