A 42-year-old illegal immigrant from Honduras who was awarded custody of an unrelated 16-year-old Honduran girl has been accused of sexual abuse and of smuggling her into the U.S.
Pedro Lara Portillo is charged with alien smuggling and encouraging an alien to illegally enter the country, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Lara, who told authorities he has been in the U.S. illegally for seven years, also lied to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement when he said that he and the girl would have separate rooms while she lived with him, according to federal court documents.
The girl came to the U.S. in late March and spent a month in the custody of HHS, which turned her over to Lara’s care.
The agency is in charge of finding housing for the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S. border while they await deportation proceedings to commence.
The girl told Baltimore County police in early June that she had been smuggled into the country, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Lara and the girl’s mother coordinated the plan to smuggle her from Honduras through Mexico, and the teen eventually entered the U.S. through Texas.
“Lara admitted in sum and substance that he wired money to Mexico for the purpose of having [the girl] smuggled to the United States,” Department of Homeland Security special agent Edward J. Kelly wrote in the charging documents.
According to the federal documents, Lara and the girl did not have separate rooms, contrary to assurances he made in the custody arrangement with HHS.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately arrest Lara after they interviewed him, though he was eventually apprehended in Tennessee.
It is unclear whether the unprecedented surge of unaccompanied children – approximately 60,000 of whom have been apprehended at the U.S. border so far this year – has put a strain on HHS’s ability to match unaccompanied children with legitimate relatives and sponsors.
HHS did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.
The Obama administration has claimed that a majority of unaccompanied children are being placed with relatives. According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 30,340 unaccompanied children were released to the care of relatives between Jan. 1 and July 7.
But overall, the Obama administration has provided little transparency into how it processes the unaccompanied children. When pressed, the administration defends the secrecy by claiming that it is protecting the privacy of the minors.
Critics of the administration’s handling of the crisis have raised a number of issues with the process. Last month, U.S. Okla. Rep. Jim Bridenstine worried that human traffickers were showing up to military facilities being used to house unaccompanied children and posing as sponsors in order to gain custody of them.
It is also unclear how many of the illegal child immigrants are being placed with illegal relatives or sponsors. Federal agencies coordinating the effort have not released those statistics, though when asked at a House Judiciary meeting in June whether unaccompanied children are being placed with illegal immigrants, DHS Sec. Johnson said “I’m sure that’s true in certain circumstances, yes.”