USCIS Chief: Government Helps Illegals Smuggle Children into U.S.

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio

The U.S. government works with human traffickers to smuggle children into the United States, citizenship chief Ken Cuccinelli told the Texas Public Policy Foundation on August 22.

Cuccinelli is the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency. He told his audience that Trump’s deputies are facing the fact that government agencies help illegal immigrant parents smuggle their children from Central America into the United States via the “Unaccompanied Alien Child” legal loophole. He said:

One of the things we’re circling back on is where these kids have parents in the country. And realize how this has worked, folks. The federal government has been the final chain in the human trafficking effort. The federal government has been the final link in the human trafficking effort up to this point. People put children in this pipeline with a certain degree of confidence — they’re obviously willing to risk their children –– that they will end up with the parents in the end. We are helping them pull this off.

The UAC smuggling starts in the United States when illegal immigrant parents or close relatives of the children work at jobs to earn the funds needed to hire coyotes.

The coyotes then accompany the children, ranging from toddlers to teenagers to young men who say they are teenagers, up to the border and relay the children to U.S. border agencies. The coyotes use some of the parents’ money to pay the cartels for safe passage through their border zones.

Early in his tenure, President Barack Obama and his deputies decided to treat the accompanied children from Central America as “Unaccompanied Alien Children.” This decision triggered a 2008 law that requires the UACs to be transferred from the border agencies to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Since then, HHS has accepted the children and sheltered them at large camps or in childcare houses. But HHS also transfers the vast majority of UACs to “sponsors,” who agree to shelter the UACs until they get a court date to plead for asylum. Very often, the “sponsors” are the parents who paid the coyotes and cartels to bring the children to the U.S. border agencies.

In some case, the sponsors have been illegal immigrant labor brokers who smuggled young men into the country to work in U.S. jobs.

The overall inflow of UACs from Central America has been more than 225,000 since 2009. From October 2018 to July 2019, border agencies accepted 69,000 of these coyote-delivered migrants for transfer to DHS. In 2018, 50,000 young migrants took the route. Another 41,000 arrived in 2017; 16,000 in 2016; 26,000 in 2015; 51,000 in 2014; 21,000 in 2013; 9,000 in 2012; 4,000 in 2011; 4,000 in 2010; and 3,000 in 2009.

The “great majority” of people who accept the children are illegals, and just “10 percent of reunifications go to sponsors who are either distant relatives or not relatives,” Commander Jonathan White, who ran the child migrant operation at the HHS, told a 2018 Senate hearing.

The parents of the UACs naturally want their children to attend K-12 schools. But most of the migrants are poor, so their children use the schools needed by the children of blue-collar Americans.

Some of the UACs welcomed by Democrats are MS-13 members who terrorize the children of non-elite Americans. A 2017 Associated Press report showed the impact in Brentwood on Long Island, N.Y.:

Late at night, when helicopters thrum overhead and spotlights beam down onto lawns, many people here know exactly what’s going on.

“You just think, ‘Oh, God, whose child is it now?’” said Stephanie Spezia, a longtime resident of this suburb in the heart of Long Island that’s caught in the grip of a violent street gang with Central American ties, MS-13.

MS-13 has been blamed for a trail of 11 corpses of mostly young people discovered in woods and vacant lots in Brentwood and neighboring Central Islip since the start of the school year.

The UAC inflow is rising, partly because many recent migrants from Central America are hiring coyotes to accompany their children to the border.

Trump’s deputies have made several efforts to break this federal smuggling chain. For example, in 2018, ICE arrested some of the illegal immigrant sponsors who tried to pick up their smuggled children at the HHS shelters. Partly because of opposition from Democrats and the media, this policy was not large enough or enduring enough to deter the parents from using the UAC pipeline. So the number of migrant children held by HHS spiked to 15,000, prompting Trump’s officials to release thousands of children to their “sponsors.”

Democrats also know illegal immigrants are gaming the UAC rules and are trying to keep the pipeline wide open. In 2019, they successfully included language in 2019 funding bills to bar ICE officials from using HHS data to identify illegal immigrant “sponsors” living in the United States.

“People quit applying to be sponsors because their information was being delivered to ICE,” Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said during the June markup. “As long as a family knows their information is going to be given to ICE, in the Hispanic community, they don’t want to step forward as sponsors,” he said.

Cuccinelli’s frankness follows statements from several GOP senators tacitly admitting the government’s quiet cooperation with the cartel-affiliated coyotes.

“Unaccompanied minors: they’re coming here, sent probably by their parents,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham told senators at a June meeting of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. The parents know that “if you can get here as an unaccompanied minor under our laws, if you are from Central America, 98 percent stay,” he said.

“All unaccompanied minors are not the same,” Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said in a video of his July 2019 visit to the border. “Some of them have a family member that is illegally present, maybe a mom or a dad, and they will be very rapidly connected back to the mom or dad here in the country and told to show up for a hearing”:

The UAC pipeline has been in operation since at least 2013. That December, Texas Judge Andrew Hanen slammed President Obama’s border agencies for working with the coyotes. The Daily Caller reported Hanen’s statement:

The smuggler, Mirtha Veronica Nava-Martinez, was arrested and the [client’s] child detained at a Texas border checkpoint when they were caught trying to use a birth certificate that belonged to Nava-Martinez’s daughter.

“Customs and Border Protection agents stopped the Defendant at the border inspection point. She was arrested, and the child was taken into custody. The DHS officials were notified that [the Virginis-based mother] Salmeron Santos instigated this illegal conduct,” the judge continued. “Yet, instead of arresting Salmeron Santos for instigating the conspiracy to violate our border security laws, the DHS delivered the child to her — thus successfully completing the mission of the criminal conspiracy. It did not arrest her. It did not prosecute her. It did not even initiate deportation proceedings for her. The DHS policy is a dangerous course of action.”

This was “the fourth case with the same factual situation this court has had in as many weeks,” Hanen wrote, adding:

The government is not only allowing [illegal migrants in the U.S.] to fund the illegal and evil activities of these cartels, but is also inspiring them to do so. … To put this in another context, the DHS policy is as logical as taking illegal drugs or weapons that it has seized from smugglers and delivering them to the criminals who initially solicited their illegal importation/exportation. Legally, this situation is no different:

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