Border Patrol agents say they have broken up an attempt by a registered sex offender to try to sneak a Guatemalan girl into the U.S. and take custody of her.
The 16-year-old girl, who showed up without parents, was nabbed as part of a group of 85 migrants near McAllen, Texas, over the weekend. When agents questioned her, she gave them a thorough description of someone she claimed was a family friend who she wanted to be released to and placed with in the U.S.
But the description raised flags, and when agents checked out the man, they say they found he was a registered sex offender in Oroville, California.
The man’s name wasn’t revealed in the statement issued by Customs and Border Protection, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether charges have been filed.
The case highlights one of the risks of the current border surge.
Most illegal immigrant children who arrive unaccompanied by parents are supposed to be quickly sent to shelters run by the federal Health and Human Services Department, then placed with sponsors in the U.S. while their immigration cases proceed.
Sponsors are usually family members already in the U.S., mostly in the country illegally.
Children often show up with names, phone numbers and addresses written on their clothing, with their families aware the government will try to reunite them — essentially completing the smuggling journey for the families.
Abuses have been detected, though, with children snuck in to be used as forced labor by unrelated adults.
In this case, agents said they were suspicious after the girl provided “demographic information” from memory about her intended sponsor. Agents said that was “rare.”
When agents reached the man, he said he was a family friend. But agents said there were “inconsistencies” in the stories.
Brian Hastings, chief patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley, said the girl is “safe” and “proper authorities have been notified.”