The U.S. Border Patrol is fingerprinting migrant children 14 years of age and younger in order to protect them from the human smugglers using them for profit.
“Right now, we are still faced with overwhelming numbers. Every tool that we can get is going to be helpful for us,” an immigration enforcement official said to CNN.
“Ultimately, it’s the changes in law” that will make room for permanent reforms, “but this will help us counter the fraud.”
The move to fingerprint young migrant children comes as Border Patrol agents are seeing an unprecedented number of “fake” children arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan earlier in April said that over 3,000 fraudulent families reached the border in the past six months.
Human smugglers — who have made billions transporting migrants across Mexico — have been increasingly pairing adults with random children and attempting to pass them off as family members.
The smugglers do this because they know migrants families are much more likely to enter the interior of the U.S. than single adults.
“It’s very clear that the cartel and smugglers know the weaknesses in our laws. They know that family units and unaccompanied children will be released with no consequences for their illegal entries,” McAleenan said earlier in April when visiting the southern border.
Border Patrol agents on Tuesday located a 3-year-old child near Brownsville, Texas.
The group of illegal aliens with the child had scattered when approached by the agents, leaving him alone and crying in a cornfield, according to a Customs and Border Protection press release.
The young boy, who is in good health, was taken to a hospital before being placed under the care of child care workers.
Before the policy change, Border Patrol agents would occasionally snap photos of children and collect other information, but they did not fingerprint immigrants under 14.
However, the new directive — which is taking place in the Rio Grande Valley and Yuma sectors — is meant to help eliminate the migrant child recycling rings currently being used by human smugglers.
Immigration enforcement officials continue to be inundated with huge waves of illegal migrants at the southern border, many of them Central American families who immediately request asylum.
The month of March marked the highest number of immigrants apprehended or turned back in over a decade.
Customs and Border Patrol announced that fiscal year 2019, only halfway through, has already surpassed the previous fiscal year in migrant apprehensions.
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