Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are warning of the “unprecedented level of child endangerment” at the border after an illegal migrant allegedly tried to pass a 6-month-old off as his own child.
U.S. Border Patrol apprehended Amilcar Guiza-Reyes, a 51-year-old man from Honduras, on May 7 after authorities caught him crossing the Rio Grande River in an area near Hidalgo, Texas, according to an ICE press release. Also with him was a 6-month-old baby, whom Guiza-Reyes was carrying as he crossed the river.
The Honduran national initially said he was the father of the baby. While at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, he even presented a Honduran birth certificate as proof of his claim.
However, during a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) examination, Guiza-Reyes admitted the child was unrelated to him and the birth certificate was fabricated, and went on to admit, according to ICE, that he intended to use the baby as a means to enter the U.S.
“Cases like this demonstrate the real danger that exists to children in this disturbing new trend,” HSI acting executive associate director Alysa Erichs said in a Thursday statement. “And while we have seen egregious cases of smugglers renting and recycling children, this case involving a six-month-old infant is a new low — and an unprecedented level of child endangerment.”
Guiza-Reyes — who had already been deported from the U.S. in 2013 — appeared in federal court May 10 and was charged with alien smuggling.
The case is the latest example of immigration fraud at the U.S.-Mexico border, an issue law enforcement officials have increasingly sounded the alarm over. Of the 562 family units HSI officials interviewed between mid-April and May 10, agents identified 95 of them as fraudulent.
“It’s very clear that the cartel and smugglers know the weaknesses in our laws. They know that family units and unaccompanied children will be released with no consequences for their illegal entries,” acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan said in April, decrying the amount of “fake families” attempting to trick immigration officials.
The Trump administration has taken additional steps to combat immigration fraud.
HSI, which serves as DHS’s investigative force, has deployed 130 personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of the officials are forensic interview specialists, victim assistance specialists and document examiners. HSI has also completed a pilot program that involved DNA testing individuals who claimed to be in a family unit, with the agency now assessing the effectiveness of this program. (RELATED: Illegal Migrant Allegedly Paid $130 To ‘Rent’ A Child To Cross The Border)
Border agents are also fingerprinting minors 14 and younger, a change from previous policy as they counter child smuggling rings.
“Our goals remain twofold: One, to protect children from being smuggled across the border by ensuring they are with their parents and not being used as pawns by individuals attempting to exploit immigration loopholes,” Erichs said. “And two, to identify and stop the criminal organizations that are generating false documents and supporting child smuggling.”
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