Federal officials report the staggering numbers of illegal immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are driven in large part by a massive influx of male migrants arriving with young children.
The phenomenon exploits a loophole in U.S. immigration law that requires men or women with children – known as a family unit – to be released within 10 days. But Guatemalan consulate officials are warning many of the documents provided by those arriving are forged, and the children are simply used as get-through-the-border faster passes with an unknown fate, Fox San Antonio reports.
“Our family units are up 600 percent compared to this time last year,” Border Patrol spokesman Louis Wayne Collins said.
“There’s a drive and a phenomenon now to bring children with you, so that you can obtain that earlier release into the United States, to wait for your credible clear asylum full adjudication with citizenship and immigration services,” according to Monica Mapel, an assistant special agent with Homeland Security Investigations.
Mapel explained the problem is many of the men arriving at the border are not truly the parents of the children they bring with them, and federal officials are struggling to vet their relationships within the 10 day release timeline.
“That’s what I’m focused on. That’s what Homeland Security Investigations is focused on with our partners at Customs and Border Protection and our brothers and sisters at enforcement and removal operations,” she said.
Mapel laid out the types of scenarios agents are encountering on a regular basis.
“A man arrived at a port of entry on south Texas. The child he was carrying had no diapers and no bottle. And when Customs and Border Protection encountered him they provided him diapers and a bottle and he had no idea how to care for the child,” she said.
“He didn’t know how to feed the child or change a diaper,” Mapel said. “That’s what we call a clue that is not your child.”
The Guatemalan consulate provided Fox San Antonio with other clues, in the form of fake birth certificates officials intercepted from folks seeking asylum in the United States.
“When you get to maybe a second round interview process later on it may be determined, the child cries out, ‘that’s not my dad,’ or ‘that’s not my mom,’” Mapel said.
“We have verified many documents and detected a high number of documents that have been altered,” Consul Tekandi Paniagua told the news site at the Del Rio Consulate.
Paniagua said many of the migrants and forged documents are coming from the western part of Guatemala, where locals are sold a lie about trekking to America.
He said the Guatemalan government is working to get the work out that “to bring a child to this border is not a guarantee that you will be able to enter legally into the United States.”
That effort is complicated by smugglers sending a different message.
“They tell them, you show these documents you say you are the father of these children when in fact this is fraudulent information,” Paniagua said.
ICE officials pointed out the massive groups of migrants are also used by criminal cartels to move drugs and other undesirable people across the border. The cartels send large groups of family units through one area to tie up border agents, then move people and drugs in another area.
Last night, a human smuggler dropped two young Salvadoran girls, 6 and 9, from the aging border barrier behind concertina wire. As agents vacated their patrol positions in response, 10 people crossed illegally nearby. They eluded capture. #USBP #CBP #BORDER #BORDERSECURITY pic.twitter.com/t2QNmQLpoK
— CBP San Diego (@CBPSanDiego) March 12, 2019
In a video posted by CBP San Diego last month, smugglers dropped two young children over a fence to distract border agents and move 10 illegal immigrants across the border.
“Last night, a human smuggler dropped two young Salvadoran girls, 6 and 9, from the aging border barrier behind concertina wire,” the post read. “As agents vacated their patrol positions in response, 10 people grossed illegally nearby. They eluded capture.”
“They don’t care about the children – they’re pawns. They don’t care about these individuals at all,” Mapel said. “It’s all about the money and subtle threats to maintain the organization so that’s what we’re working on on our end.”