The number of adult migrants posing as unaccompanied children once they are caught by agents is increasing due to the different treatment children receive when being processed, officials said.
The U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector has seen 55 adults posing as unaccompanied children since Oct. 1, Border Patrol officials said. This comes after 559 adult migrants attempted to pose as children in the sector during the 2021 fiscal year.
Migrants illegally entering the U.S. and posing as unaccompanied children could be charged with false statements to federal agents and conspiracy to defraud the U.S., officials said. The charges hold a maximum of five years in prison.
Migrants posing as children are adding to the already large number of unaccompanied children agents already are encountering, officials said. Last fiscal year, agents found nearly 23,000 unaccompanied children illegally crossing into the U.S.
Officials said the agency is taking a “proactive approach” to find migrants posing as children, which has led to the increased number of cases, officials said.
U.S. Border Patrol agents at the El Paso Sector Centralized Processing Center, El Paso Sector Intelligence Unit agents, the El Paso Sector Foreign Operations Branch and Homeland Security Investigations are working together to “leverage capabilities to detect tactics and trends employed by (transnational criminal organizations).”
Officials said human smugglers are telling adult migrants to pose as children due to the agency’s “unique handling” of unaccompanied children, including holding the children at different processing centers. Unaccompanied children also are not immediately deported.
“El Paso Sector agents, working jointly with HSI and the US Attorney’s Office, are working tirelessly to identify and prosecute adult migrants entering the United States illegally who fraudulently claim to be an unaccompanied child or juvenile,” El Paso Sector Border Patrol Chief Gloria I. Chavez said in a statement. “Our teamwork with our U.S. partners and collaboration with the Foreign Consulates in our border region is essential in keeping other migrants in our temporary custody safe and our communities even safer.”
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