It’s no secret that smuggling illegal immigrants across the porous U.S.-Mexico border is big business for coyotes and cartels.
But Border Patrol officials are warning that the crimes are increasingly involving kids as cover, a trend inspired by the government’s failed immigration policies that’s driving the crisis at the border.
“You can walk through any of our processing centers and you can see that there are potentially parents, or adults with children, that there may not be a familial relationship,” Del Rio Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz told the Epoch Times.
“There’s probably many more cases like that happening across all nine southwest border sectors on any given day,” he said. “Really, if you think about it, it’s human trafficking.”
Yuma Border Patrol Chief Anthony Porvaznik said agents in his sector identified 550 fraudulent “family units” in the last six months alone, though he contends the actual number of adults using children to gain quick release from immigration processing centers is likely much higher.
“We know we’ve missed many, many more, simply because we’re overwhelmed by the sheer numbers,” Porvaznik said. “And so those are kids that are being rented, for lack of a better word, to an adult to format a fraudulent family unit so that they can be released in the United States and then that child will be recycled back to its country of origin – usually Guatemala, in our case here in Yuma.”
The issue is complicated by adults posing as minors using fake identification documents, laws requiring the release of minors within 20 days, and savvy smugglers who know how to exploit the situation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics show the number of so-called “family units” number about 77,000 as recently as 2016, but that figure has skyrocketed to nearly 190,000 in only the first six months of fiscal year 2019.
“Make no mistake about it, the word is getting out: if you are part of a family, if you bring a child, you will be released,” Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Chief Rodolfo Karisch said at an April Senate hearing, offering intercepted text messages from smugglers and gang members as evidence.
#BORDERNEWS Immigrants tell me they’re coming to the U.S. because they’re seeing advertisements on their local newspapers and TV stations, about better opportunities and free help from Americans if they enter illegally. My #Exclusive report straight from the border. #Immigration pic.twitter.com/mpRdg2hes7
— Sydney Hernandez (@SydneyKGBT) April 15, 2019
Local reporters on the border have also spoke with illegal immigrants who claim the easy entry into the U.S. when accompanied by a child is advertised on the radio and in the newspapers in their home country, The American Mirror reports.
Carlos Ruiz, Border Patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley, told the Epoch Times families with more than one child are splitting up to cross in different groups to speed their release into the U.S., as well. In one case, a woman who was five months pregnant told Border Patrol agents her husband already crossed on a different day with their daughter, Ruiz said.
“Because if they came as a whole family … we can hold one of the parents for however long we want to,” he said. “We’re not going to separate the child from either the mother or the father, but we will separate the father or the mother from them.”
Officials said when agents discover an adult with an unrelated minor, the child is processed and agents contact the consulates for help to find family, though sometimes it’s the family that sends the child with smugglers to begin with.
“These kids are being trafficked through multiple counties and put through terrible conditions,” Ortiz told the Epoch Times. “If we don’t do something to stop this, if we don’t make a stand on the border security and immigration problem right now, there’s going to be more of these kids that are going to be subjected to some serious harm.”