Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

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FILE - In this March 14, 2019, file photo, families who crossed the nearby U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas are placed in a Border Patrol vehicle. U.S. border authorities say they’ve started to increase the biometric data they take from children 13 years of age and younger, including fingerprints, despite privacy concerns and government policy intended to restrict what can be collected from migrant youth. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations said last week’s case of a Honduran man attempting to cross the U.S.- Mexico border with an unrelated 6-month-old infant is an example of what HSI special agents describe as an increasing trend of fraudulent families presenting themselves at the border to avoid being detained by authorities.

“Cases like this demonstrate the real danger that exists to children in this disturbing new trend,” said Alysa Erichs, HSI acting executive associate director. “And while we have seen egregious cases of smugglers renting and recycling children, this case involving a 6-month-old infant is a new low — and an unprecedented level of child endangerment.”

Amilcar Guiza-Reyes, a 51-year-old citizen and national of Honduras, who was previously deported in 2013, made an initial appearance Friday in federal court in the Southern District of Texas, charged with smuggling a 6-month-old infant across the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Border Patrol said Guiza-Reyes was seen wading across the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the U.S. near Hidalgo, Texas, carrying an infant, on May 7.

Border Patrol agents said Guiza-Reyes initially claimed the infant was his son. Border Patrol said after presenting a fraudulent Honduran birth certificate at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, he was referred to HSI special agents for interview and further investigation.

HSI special agents said Guiza-Reyes admitted to them that he obtained the child’s fraudulent document to show him as the father and that he intended to use the child to further his unlawful entry in to the U.S.

ICE officials said the child in this case, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, was transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services for placement.

HSI has sent an additional 130 personnel to the border area in an effort to combat cases of fraud involving children.

HSI said the DNA testing pilot program recently implemented has already been used to identify cases of fraudulent families and serve as a deterrent; however, HSI said it is still assessing results of the pilot program and did not provide a number of cases found or information regarding any specific case.

According to HSI, special agents interviewed 562 family units between mid-April and May 10 who were suspected of fraud and, of those interviewed, 95 fraudulent families were identified. HIS said more than 176 fraudulent documents or claims have also been uncovered.

“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,” said Erichs. “And two, to identify and stop the criminal organizations that are generating false documents and supporting child smuggling.”

ICE said the adults involved in this fraud will be presented to the U.S. Department of Justice for federal prosecution for family fraud-related crimes including: immigration crime, identity and benefit fraud, alien smuggling, human trafficking and child exploitation.

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