A ranking official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Congress on Wednesday that more than 600 children were “recycled” over the border last year, including some who were brought over eight times, and each time by a different person.
The official noted that children are recycled so that the adult(s) they are with can exploit lax U.S. admission policies to gain a foothold into the country.
What’s more, noted Derek N. Benner, acting deputy director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the 600 figure represents only the children who were detected.
Recycling kids into the U.S. is one of the many distasteful aspects of illegal immigration over the past 12 months. The numbers of families and children who snuck into the U.S. last year set records.
The families were drawn by a lax policy, imposed by a federal court, that allowed adults to get a quick release into communities as long as they brought a son or daughter with them, the Washington Times reported.
As a result, massive levels of fraud occurred, with adults renting or outright buying unrelated children in order to portray as a family, according to U.S. border authorities.
In some cases it was a one-off, but in other instances children were “recycled” across the border multiple times, according to Benner.
“We’ve identified over 600 children that have been recycled,” he said.
The Times said that means that once those children came across illegally with an unrelated adult, the kids were separated by smugglers from the main body of migrants then taken back across the border to accompany another adult, never being related to either one.
“Some of them had indicated they’ve made the trip as many as eight times, with separate, unrelated adults each time,” Benner said.
Kids have been purchased for as little as $80 by adults attempting to game the U.S. system, which looks more favorably on families than individual adults.
As a result, ICE began using DNA testing at borders, which has helped agents identify children more quickly. About one-quarter of those tested came back as not being family members.
The rate now is around 15 percent, ICE says.