A woman turned her juvenile daughter over to a sexual predator to sneak them both into the U.S. in exchange for getting the mother a job, Homeland Security officials said Tuesday, detailing one of the horrific abuses that migrants are able to make of the immigration system.
The man, Ramon Pedro, showed up at a land border crossing in Texas in April, said he was traveling with his daughter, and demanded entry into the U.S., the government says. They were processed and released under the expectation they would return for their immigration proceedings.
But late last month, the man and girl were admitted to a hospital in Fresno, California, for tuberculosis screening — and the doctors discovered the girl had been sexually assaulted.
The hospital then figured out the girl wasn’t related to Mr. Pedro at all.
“In fact, the victim’s mother told her daughter to accompany Pedro to the United States and he would secure her employment,” a Homeland Security official said.
The Huron Police Department arrested Mr. Pedro for rape, forcible sexual penetration, child endangerment and other related charges. He is being held on a $310,000 bond, according to Homeland Security.
The horrifying case comes as the surge of families — and those portraying themselves as families in order to take advantage of immigration policies — has roiled the immigration debate.
The number of families surged in recent years as smugglers figured out that adults could get more lenient treatment if they came with children in tow. While single adults are usually quickly deported, families were processed and released in the hope they would return to be deported later.
Reasons for the quick release are complex, but a major factor both the Trump and Obama administrations pointed to was a 2015 ruling by a federal judge in California who said children couldn’t be kept longer than 20 days in detention. And since the children are generally supposed to be release to parents, the government figured it had to release the families together, giving them a chance to disappear into the shadows.
At the time the Obama administration warned of bad consequences stemming from that decision, known as the Flores Settlement. One of those consequences, the government predicted, would be children getting abducted by people trying to falsely claim to be families.
Indeed the number of such cases soared by 900 percent this year, according to a Washington Times report in May.
In some cases children were kidnapped, while other cases — such as the latest report involving Mr. Pedro — children were apparently loaned to other immigrants to further the family fraud.
Huron Police Chief George Turegano said the investigation was still active and he couldn’t comment beyond the details Homeland Security had released publicly.
Judge Dolly M. Gee, the federal judge who issued the 2015 ruling blamed for creating the situation, declined to respond earlier this year to a request for comment about the abductions, other than to tell a reporter to read her rulings.