McALLEN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A Honduran man attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border near Hidalgo, Texas with a 6-month-old not related to him.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents said this is an increasing trend of fraudulent families presenting at the border in order to take advantage of loopholes in immigration laws and avoid being detained by immigration authorities.
“Cases like this demonstrate the real danger that exists to children in this disturbing new trend,” said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs. “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.”
Amilcar Guiza-Reyes, 51, who was previously deported in 2013, made an initial appearance in federal court in the Southern District of Texas May 10, for allegedly smuggling a baby across the U.S.-Mexico border.
On May 7, Guiza-Reyes was observed by U.S. Border Patrol wading across the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the U.S. near Hidalgo, Texas, carrying an infant child.
He initially claimed to the U.S. Border Patrol agents that the infant was his son.
However, 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.
He later admitted to the HSI special agents 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.
The child was transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services for placement.
In recent months, HSI has deployed 130 personnel to the border, including special agents, forensic interview specialists, document examiners and victim assistance specialists, in an effort to combat this phenomenon.
Between mid-April and May 10, HSI special agents interviewed 562 family units who demonstrated signs of fraud. Of those interviewed, 95 fraudulent families were identified. 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.”
The adults involved in this fraud will be presented to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for federal prosecution for family fraud related crimes including: immigration crime, identity and benefit fraud, alien smuggling, human trafficking and child exploitation.