A federal case out of south Florida illustrates the perils of a U.S. policy that facilitates the entry of illegal immigrants with children over those traveling alone. The matter involves a Guatemalan national who obtained false documents in his impoverished Central American country to claim a 12-year-old boy as his son. The 35-year-old illegal alien, Walfre Eliseo Camposeco-Montejo, and his fake son were released by federal authorities as a family unit and remained free until the boy escaped. Camposeco-Montejo eventually pled guilty to providing and obtaining forced labor, alien smuggling and unlawfully transporting aliens. This month he was sentenced to eight years in prison for labor trafficking a minor.
Camposeco-Montego and the minor illegally entered the U.S. by crossing the Rio Grande in November 2016, according to the feds. Not coincidentally, there was a huge spike in family units entering the country via the southern border that year. In fact, Judicial Watch reported it after obtaining Department of Homeland Security (DHS) figures showing that, in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2016, the number of family units apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol nearly doubled from the previous year. The majority of the illegal border crossers remained in the country under former President Barack Obama’s special refugee and family reunification programs. The Rio Grande Border Patrol sector used by Camposeco-Montego saw an astounding 91% increase in family units the year he crossed it with the boy, according to the government figures.
“Upon their arrest by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, when crossing the border, Camposeco-Montejo lied about being the boy’s father,” according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) statement issued this month. “Based upon Camposeco-Montejo’s false representations, he and the boy were released as a family unit and subsequently made their way to Florida.” The Guatemalan illegal alien obtained false identification documents for the boy and forced him to work in south Florida farms for months to repay a debt from the human smuggling operation, according to federal prosecutors. The scheme was exposed because the boy was eventually able to escape and report his smuggler. Authorities say the smuggler promised the boy’s mother he would provide him with an education upon arriving in the U.S.
In the last few years federal agents along the Mexican border have uncovered thousands of similar cases in which illegal immigrants use children to practically assure entry into the U.S. Family units also avoid long-term federal custody. They are known as “fake families.” During congressional testimony over the summer, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) explained the situation: “By requiring the release of family units before the conclusion of immigration proceedings, seemingly well-intentioned court rulings and legislation are being exploited by transnational criminal organizations and human smugglers,” Matthew Albence told lawmakers during the July hearing. “These despicable smugglers have created an entire illicit industry with untold millions of dollars being made through the sale, rental, and recycling of children—utilized by unscrupulous adults to pose as family units.”
The word that kids are a ticket into the U.S. has spread like wildfire throughout Central America. The nation’s largest Spanish-language news network, also viewed throughout Latin America, even aired a segment titled “Children as Passport” that points out “arriving at the U.S. border with a child in hand has become the best passport for tens of thousands of Central American migrants.” Another major Spanish news conglomerate recently reported that immigrants buy children for $130 to create fake families that facilitate crossing the border. One Spanish news story reveals that a Guatemalan man rented an 8-year-old boy to cross the Lukeville port of entry in Arizona. Throughout Central America and Mexico, a multitude of news reports and social media postings reiterate similar stories.
As a result, there has been a huge—and unprecedented—rise in family units at the southern border. In 2019 there were 473,682 apprehensions of family units, an increase of more than quadruple from the previous year, according to a report issued by the Pew Research Center. The nonpartisan think tank describes it as a “big shift from the recent past” in which individual adults far outnumbered family units or unaccompanied children. Family units also represented more than half of all apprehensions in 2019. “The changing profile of those being apprehended has strained the Border Patrol, which follows different legal protocols for detaining family members and single adults,” the Pew report states.