51-year-old Amilcar Guiza-Reyes admitted to buying a 6-month-old baby for $80 in Guatemala after discovering it was easier for families to apply for asylum at the U.
The Honduran migrant confessed to immigration agents when he showed himself at the border with the baby as he was told he would be required to undergo a DNA test.
Guiza-Reyes reportedly purchased the baby during his stop in the western Guatemalan town of Huehuetenango.
The incident is one of the thousands which officials flagged as potentially fraudulent. The baby was then transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services for placement.
400 agents have been dispatched by the Department of Homeland Security to interview families that are suspected of handing over fake documents.
Agents managed to identify 5,500 fraudulent families over the last two months.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said that agents discovered migrants were kidnapping and renting children to convince officials of their familial ties. He also added that some had paid $100 to $1,000.
“That tells me that we might be scratching the surface of this problem and the number of children being put at risk might be even higher,” McAleenan added.
Asylum seekers were using the children as pawns so they could be admitted into the US, said the interim HIS head.
“Everybody knows that if they bring a child, they’ll be allowed to stay in the United States,” McAleenan continued.
“They call it a ‘passport for migration.’ I heard that directly from a gentleman from Huehuetenango, the westernmost province of Guatemala.”
Investigators uncovered more than 900 false documents and at least 600 people were charged with smuggling children or trafficking.
“We’ve seen all manner of smuggling organizations communicating to potential customers and to those crossing the border how to bring a child with them to be allowed to stay in the United States. They’ve been active in advertising, literally on Facebook and on the radio in Central America,” McAleenan said.
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