For as little as $80, illegal immigrants are buying babies to carry with them across the U.S.-Mexico border as a “passport for migration” into the country.

According to The Epoch Times:

Homeland Security Investigations, a division of ICE, sent 400 agents to El Paso and Rio Grande Valley, Texas in mid-April to interview families that Border Patrol suspected were fake. In the last eight weeks, HSI special agents have identified 5,500 fraudulent families – about 15 percent of all cases referred.

Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan told Congress earlier this month that agents also identified 921 fake documents and 615 people have faced trafficking or child smuggling charges for the crimes.

“That tells me that we might be scratching the surface of this problem and the number of children being put at risk might be even higher,” he said, citing examples like a 51-year-old illegal immigrant who confessed to Border Agents that he purchased a 6-month-old baby in Guatemala for $80.

The man, from Honduras, alleged confessed to the selfish act when agents confronted him with a DNA test, McAleenan said.

The problem stems from broken immigration laws and legal rulings that require the government to release migrants with minors from custody within 20 days, which is not enough time for agents to vet the thousands coming across the border each day.

“Everybody knows that if they bring a child, they’ll be allowed to stay in the United States – they call it a ‘passport for migration,’” he told lawmakers. “I heard that directly from a gentleman from Huehuetenango, the western-most province of Guatemala.”

Smugglers are advertising the situation through Facebook and on the radio throughout Central America, leading to a 469 percent increase in the number of purported family units flooding into the U.S. in comparison to fiscal year 2018.

Many of the children involved come from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and are paired with single men by smugglers to speed processing through Border Patrol facilities. Many are then recycled back across the border to repeat the nightmare, with the help of fake documents.

Many make it through, but those who are caught face a multitude of criminal charges including immigration, identity and benefit fraud, smuggling, human trafficking and child exploitation, according to the Times. Just last month, Breitbart cited an example of an MS-13 gang member who was busted posing as the father of an 18-month old girl infected with chicken pox.

“Frankly, it’s disgusting,” Acting ICE Director Matthey T. Albence told the news site. “But, it’s not something that we’re surprised about, unfortunately. We’ve been saying for several years that when we talk about the humanitarian crisis on the border, it’s not just the number of family units and unaccompanied children that are coming to the border illegally, it’s a fact that, based on the laws that Congress has failed to fix, they have created an industry the smuggling and rental of children.”

“There’s a whole fake document operation in all three countries,” McAleenan said of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“The vulnerabilities in our legal framework (are) incentivizing smugglers and families to put children at risk,” he said. “The recycling problem is maybe the worst manifestation of that.”

“ICE now has three significant cases, multiple cities around the country, where they’ve identified a small group of children – say five to eight children – who are being used by dozens of adults to cross our border seeking release into the United States,” McAleenan said.

The surge in family units comes as Border Patrol is also witnessing a dramatic increase in unaccompanied minors, as well, “to levels we have never seen before,” he said.

The 67,000 unaccompanied minors have turned Health and Human Services into a foster care system that’s currently handling 11,000 cases, Jonathan Hayes, who heads HSS’ unaccompanied minor program for the Office of Refugee Resettlement told the House Judiciary Committee last week.

“I don’t think most people realize that most of these unaccompanied children are being released to parents or relatives in the United States who are also here unlawfully, who may not have permission to work in the United States,” McAleenan said.

Perhaps not surprising, politicians in Washington, D.C. just made that problem even worse by creating new loopholes in the law through the recent appropriations process.

“New restrictions, placed by Congress in the latest round of appropriations, include a provision that illegal aliens in a household with an unaccompanied minor are now exempt from deportation,” according to the Times.