Experts Warn of Illegal Immigrants ‘Renting’ Kids to Cross Border

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 24: A family of asylum seekers takes a taxi to the airport for onward travel within the U.S. after being released by U.S. immigration authorities on February 24, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas. Immigration officials have begun releasing asylum seekers within the U.S. pending their court cases in a reversal of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

McALLEN, Texas—Adults using unrelated children to gain quick access to the United States after crossing the border illegally became a problem during the 2019 border surge. This year has all the hallmarks of a repeat, border experts warn.

In one 2019 case, a Honduran man bought a 6-month-old baby in Guatemala to pose as a family and get priority release. In another case, a child-for-rent recycling ring was operating between Houston and Mexico.

At the time, the Department of Homeland Security set up rapid DNA testing, which revealed a 30 percent rate of fraud in the two test areas of El Paso and Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

Homeland Security Investigations, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sent 400 agents to the two regions in mid-April 2019 to interview families that Border Patrol suspected were fake. Over eight weeks, HSI agents identified 5,500 fraudulent families—about 15 percent of all cases referred.

Agents uncovered 921 fake documents, and 615 individuals were prosecuted for trafficking or smuggling a child, according to Kevin McAleenan, who was acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the time.

“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,” McAleenan said during a congressional hearing on July 18, 2019.

He said the cost of renting a child varied from less than $100 to more than $1,000.

“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,’” McAleenan said at the time.

During May 2019, at the height of the crisis, more than 84,000 individuals within family units were apprehended by Border Patrol.

By Charlotte Cuthbertson for THE EPOCH TIMES
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