Homeland Security has spotted more than 1,000 fraudulent families at the southwest border over the past seven months, officials said Wednesday, putting parameters on the growing phenomenon of adults trying to use someone else’s children to sneak into the U.S.
The department announced it will start a pilot program at the border next week to use DNA testing to try to match children with their parents, hoping to further weed out juveniles being used to try to game U.S. laws.
“It’s definitely an escalating trend that we’re seeing,” one department official said in briefing reporters about the move.
Thanks to a 2015 court ruling, adults that show up at the border with their children and make some claim such as asylum are almost impossible to quickly deport. Under the 2015 Flores settlement update, those families can only be held in detention for about 20 days — less than half the time it usually takes to process and hear their deportation cases.
Under the ruling, they are instead released — and rarely show up for their eventual cases and deportations.
The Obama administration had warned the courts in 2015 that such a decision would lead to fraudulent families and children being “abducted” so adults could pretend to be families.
Judges had waved those concerns aside, but the numbers show that has indeed happened.
A Homeland Security official said more than 1,000 “confirmed” cases of adults bringing juveniles who weren’t their own children to the border have been detected since the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. That works out to about five a day.
Officials said those are just the cases they’ve caught.
The DNA testing could give them an idea of the universe they aren’t detecting.
“The whole goal here is to identify these fake family units,” an official said.