SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As an overwhelming number of migrant families reach the U.S.-Mexico border and strain the system, U.S. border officials said many of those families they are seeing are fake.
The situation at the border has been called a “real crisis” by the Department of Homeland Security in a recent report. The department said the number of families coming across the border increased last year by 600 percent.
“Those large groups … they know our resources can't address the threats at the same time,” said Chief Border Patrol Agent Rodney Scott, with the San Diego Sector.
With the increase in families crossing the border comes an alarming rise in fake families -- where adults are accompanied by kids who aren’t really theirs.
“We have documented cases where children are being provided by a smuggling operations and they have no relationship whatsoever to the person coming across,” said Scott. “Smuggling organization basically rents the child, provides the child to this person.”
The dead giveaway: the adults don’t know the children’s names or birthdates.
“[Smugglers] give them an entire backstory, and then they try to come across as a family … and sometimes we’re seeing the same be child recycled,” Scott added.
San Diego-based Rep. Duncan Hunter said he has been there.
“I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen the families admit to it,” Hunter said.
Hunter calls the situation a racket orchestrated by cartels to overload the U.S. system, distract agents and more easily get drugs and criminals in -- right behind the fraudulent families.
“The kid then gets shipped back to Guatemala to be used by the next family … you get paid $1,500,” Hunter added.
Scott said because minors cannot be fingerprinted, photographed or can’t have DNA taken from them, it takes his agents hours to assess whether a child is being used as a pawn.
“Just the massive numbers of how many people are literally waiting on the floor is challenging …,” Scott said.
The situation continues to strain the system beyond capacity, he said, with only one way to turn it around: “Fix the law.”
The law Scott is referring to was enacted in 2015 and guarantees families with children be released after a maximum of 20 days.
Border Patrol officials and the recent DHS report say the laws need to be adjusted to match threats being faced today.
Scott warned that the country can’t “arrest our way out of this problem.”