The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discovered more than 1,000 fake families trying to sneak across the southwest U.S. border.
DHS officials said that since Oct. 1, 2018, authorities have discovered about five fake families a day sneaking across the border with children they have borrowed or abducted, The Washington Times reported Wednesday, May 1.
Officials worry there may be more families, saying that the 1,000 fraudulent families discovered so far are merely the ones they have caught.
DHS officials have also noted a 315 percent increase in the number of fake family units between October 2017 and February 2018.
Homeland Security plans to start a program to check the DNA of the alleged families and ensure the safety of children who are being used in this way.
“The whole goal here is to identify these fake family units,” an official told The Washington Times.
This escalating strategy is a result of the 2015 Flores settlement update that makes deporting families with children who claim asylum virtually impossible, according to The Washington Times.
Families can only be held in detention under the Flores settlement update for about 20 days, which is about half the time it takes to hear deportation cases.
This usually results in families being released, according to the newspaper. The Obama administration reportedly warned authorities that the Flores settlement might cause a rise in child abduction and fake families, as is now the case.
“It’s definitely an escalating trend that we’re seeing,” a Homeland Security official told The Washington Times.
“This is an unprecedented step forward in our investigative process and techniques,” a DHS official said to reporters during a Wednesday conference call.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also commented on the amount of fake families. “Fake families are being formed to cross our border and avoid detention. ICE [Homeland Security Investigations] is working with [Customs and Border Protection] to stop individuals, networks and organizations facilitating child smuggling and document fraud to illegally enter the U.S.,” ICE tweeted Monday.
Fake families are being formed to cross our border and avoid detention. ICE #HSI is working with @CBP to stop individuals, networks and organizations facilitating child smuggling and document fraud to illegally enter the U.S.
— ICE (@ICEgov) April 29, 2019
ICE said it will move experts to the border to investigate child smuggling by using scientific data to uncover the trafficking rings operating out of Central America and Mexico.
By Mary Margaret Olohan
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