Valerie Bauman, Daily Mail, May 6, 2019
Guatemalan immigrant paid $130 to ‘RENT’ an eight-year-old boy so he could illegally cross the border more easily by posing as part of a family
Valerie Bauman, Daily Mail, May 6, 2019
A Guatemalan family accepted the equivalent of $130 to ‘rent’ their eight-year-old son to a man seeking easier passage across the Southern U.S. border, according to a federal indictment.
Maynor Velasquez Molina sought the boy out after hearing that it would be ‘easier to get into the United States with a child,’ a federal agent said in the criminal complaint.
It’s just one example of what the Trump administration has said is a growing crisis – Border Patrol’s Yuma division has recorded more than 700 fraudulent family claims since October — including instances in which adults have claimed to be unaccompanied minors, according to Tucson.com.
While that remains a small portion of the overall flow of people across the border – 24,200 migrant families were apprehended at the crossing near Yuma from October — March – officials are still concerned about child trafficking.
‘ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is redirecting resources to the border in response to cases of fake families using forged documents to illegally enter our country and avoid detention,’ ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence said. ‘Our highly-skilled teams are working to stop individuals, networks and organizations facilitating child smuggling and document fraud.’
Molina traveled by bus with the young boy to reach Mexico, after paying an additional $130 to have a fake birth certificate mocked up for the child. They crossed the border in February with a group of more than 100 migrants. Molina was indicted March 27 on a charge of human smuggling.
For the most part, people caught making false family claims have received fairly light sentences: Some 53 people have been prosecuted, as have 15 adults who used fraudulent birth certificates to try to pass as minors since June 2018, according to The Arizona Daily Star.
Most of those cases were treated as misdemeanors. Just three cases led to immediate guilty pleas for crossing the border illegally. In those cases, prison sentences ranged from a few days to several weeks.
In one case, another Guatemalan man used a fake birth certificate to try to prove that he was the father of a family he was traveling with. He was sentenced to 15 days in federal prison, according to court records.
The Trump administration recently started a pilot project to DNA test some immigrant families at the border to verify that they are related and that the children are not victims of human smuggling.
The Rapid DNA testing technique can yield results in an average of 90 minutes.
It’s the latest strategy by the administration to deal with the dramatic increase in migrants coming across the Southern U.S. border – and gets at the heart of claims by Trump that children are being trafficked in an effort by smugglers to get around federal immigration laws.
From October 2017 – February 2018, officials found a 315 percent increase ‘in the number of cases of adults with minors fraudulently posing as ‘family units’ to gain entry’ to the U.S., according to DHS.
‘Cases of fake families are popping up everywhere. And children are being used as pawns,’ former Homeland Secretary Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a speech last month.
She added that DHS had discovered ‘child recycling rings,’ in which the same children are used over and over again in an attempts to get more migrants released in the US.
Border crossings were up to 103,492 in March – a 77.5 percent increase compared to January, according to federal data.
The increase forced the Trump administration to start releasing some migrants immediately after they arrive – without processing them through ICE.
Trump has pledged to end such a ‘catch-and-release’ policy, but has so far been stymied by the sheer volume of migrants flowing across the border.
Further complicating things is the fact that the government can’t legally detain migrant children for more than 20 days, which has led to more of those families being released since Trump ended the administration’s policy of separating children from parents last June.
The increased flow of migrants at the border has been driven largely by people fleeing gang violence, poverty and corruption in the Northern Triangle region of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Most have sought asylum in the U.S., saying they would face threats of violence and death if they returned to their home countries.
The process for seeking asylum often last years and many are ultimately unsuccessful. Some immigrants are allowed to live in the U.S. while awaiting their fate in court while others spend the time in detention centers.