US

Migrant ‘Rents’ a Boy to Cross Border as Fake Family: DOJ

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

A Guatemalan man allegedly paid about $130 to “rent” an eight-year-old boy from another family so that when he crossed the U.S. border, he could pretend the boy was his son.

Guatemalan migrant Maynor Velasquez Molina said he was told it would be “easier to get into the United States with a child,” according to a criminal complaint sighted by the Arizona Daily Star.

Velasquez also allegedly paid another person about $130 (1,000 quetzales) to have a false Guatemalan birth certificate made for the boy, according to the criminal complaint.

The “father and son” traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border by bus. They were among a large group of 101 migrants who illegally crossed the border just west of the Lukeville Port of Entry on Feb. 18, according to the Arizona news outlet.

But border agents determined their claim as a family was fake, and four days after they’d been processed at the Tuscon Sector, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) interviewed Velasquez, who admitted that he had sought to rent the boy when he was in Guatemala.

A federal grand jury in Tucson indicted Velasquez on human-smuggling charges on March 27.

Not an Isolated Incident

The case of family fraud is just one among hundreds at the U.S. border. The Arizona news outlet reported that Border Patrol officials in the Yuma Sector alone said there have been more than 700 family fraud cases since the beginning of October 2018.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said 101 family units were interviewed since April 18, and of those, 29 fraudulent families were identified.

“This fraud may include the use of forged birth certificates or other fraudulent documents to establish parentage,” ICE officials stated in a press release on Tuesday. “Forged or other fraudulent documents are also being used by adult illegal aliens to falsely claim they are minors under the age of 18.”

Migrant adults frequently pose as parents to children in order to take advantage of loopholes in U.S. immigration laws and to avoid being detained. Special agents have seen perpetrators of this fraud using “forged birth certificates or other fraudulent documents to establish parentage.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had recently noted a “staggering increase in the number of illegal aliens using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the United States.” The DHS said there had been a 315 percent increase in the number of cases where adults and minors pose as “family units” between October 2017 and February 2018.

Since the beginning of this fiscal year until March, border officials have identified more than 1,000 fraudulent family claims, The Epoch Times reported.

And in the six months leading to mid-April, U.S. Border Patrol identified over 3,000 fraudulent family unit cases, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan told KVEO.

Illicit ‘Recycling’ of Children For Profit

Last week, a case of family fraud in El Paso was uncovered where HSI border agents found that the same child had been used by migrants to cross the border posing as a family on two previous occasions.

The U.S. Border Patrol says that opportunistic smuggling groups use and even “recycle” children to profit from the fraud.

“Transnational criminal organizations continue to profit from individuals utilizing loopholes in our immigration system to commit fraud,” Border Patrol said in a statement on May 3.

“These groups have no concern for the welfare or safety of the children and family groups being smuggled to the Southwest Border. The U.S. Border Patrol has continuously warned about the existence of this type of illicit activity and exploitation of minors.”

ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence said in a statement on April 29: “Our highly-skilled teams are working to stop individuals, networks and organizations facilitating child smuggling and document fraud.

“ICE along with our partners at CBP (Customs and Border Protection), remain committed to protecting children by ensuring they are not used as pawns by individuals attempting to gain entry to the U.S. through fraud.”

Migrant Families To Undergo DNA Testing in Pilot Project

To combat the increase in fraudulent families trying to enter the United States, the DHS, under a new pilot project from President Donald Trump’s administration, is set to begin administering DNA tests to migrant families as early as next week to see if they are really family. DHS officials say the plan is an “unprecedented move forward.”

Under the new program, consenting migrant individuals will swab his or her own cheek while being observed by DHS agents and a qualified technician, as will the claimed migrant child, in a test that will take “an average of two hours.” The Rapid DNA kits will be provided by contractor ANDE.

“This pilot will help us determine whether this technology can strengthen our existing investigative processes and potentially rescue more children from dangerous situations,” DHS officials told reporters in a May 1 conference call.

Migrant adults found guilty under the plan will be sent for federal prosecution by ICE for “family fraud related to crimes including immigration crime, identity and benefit fraud, alien smuggling, human trafficking and/or child exploitation.”

In cases where the migrant is the true parent but doesn’t have a DNA relation to them, such as an older relative or adopted child, DHS said they will be looking for legal documentation as well that proves some sort of guardian status.

Officials said they won’t be revealing the locations of the coming DNA tests so as to not disrupt the flow of migrants currently being encountered.

“This is a pilot. It is going to be limited in scope, limited in time ,” an official said.

Epoch Times reporter Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.