At least some Republicans in Congress are doing work. GOP lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at curbing child trafficking.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) recently introduced the End Child Trafficking Now Act. Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) introduced companion legislation in the House on Wednesday.
According to a press release, Sen. Blackburn “heard how drug cartels and transnational criminal gangs traffic and exploit migrant children to gain illegal entry into the country.”
“After seeing the crisis firsthand, I’m reintroducing legislation to require DNA testing at the border to deter fraud and child trafficking. Adults attempting to slip across our borders under the guise of being a parent or relative to a minor must be DNA tested to prove they are related,” Blackburn said.
Drug cartels and gangs are using children to falsely present themselves as family units and seek asylum at our southern border. These unaccompanied minors are especially vulnerable to trafficking and are often forced to perform sex acts. Making DNA tests mandatory on anyone claiming a family relationship with a minor will send a powerful message that traffickers will be caught and aggressively prosecuted.
Sen. Ernst also chimed in:
Children are tragically being trafficked across the border by illegal immigrants who falsely claim they are related. This needs to stop—for the wellbeing of these children and the security of our nation. One simple way to address this problem is by having DNA testing in place so we can ensure that an unaccompanied minor is actually connected with the person claiming to be their family, not being used as a ‘human passport’ to illegally get across our border.
Sen. Tillis pointed out the likelihood of these children being sexually assaulted.
“Unaccompanied children are passing through our border with the help of strangers and members of cartels, putting these children at an increased risk of sexual abuse and human trafficking,” he said. “This is completely unacceptable and the Biden Administration’s response has been severely lacking. This legislation is a commonsense, humane reform to how we determine family relationships at our border and can help prevent innocent children from being abused. I am proud to work with my colleagues so we can protect these children from a life of cruelty and hardships.”
Almost 10% of all the 100,441 arrests for illegal border crossings in February 2021 were unaccompanied children. In March, Border Patrol has been catching 523 minors per day on average. If this trend continues, this would account for about 16,000 minors detained at the border.
If passed, this bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to deport migrant adults if they refuse a DNA test. It would also require a maximum 10-year prison sentence for any adult who “fabricates family ties or guardianship over a minor.”
Additionally, it would criminalize “child recycling,” which occurs when the same child is used multiple times by various adults who are not related to the minor. If family ties cannot be proven with the accompanying adult, the measure would require HHS to process the child as an unaccompanied minor.
Child recycling has become a common practice exercised by migrant adults trying to gain entry into the U.S. “More than 600 children were “recycled” through the border over the last year, including some who were carried across eight times, by a different person each time, looking to exploit lax policies to gain a foothold in the U.S.,” according to The Washington Times.
Migrants engage in this practice due to lax immigration policies that allow adults to be released into the United States as long as they bring a son or daughter with them. Derek N. Benner, acting deputy director at Immigration and Customs enforcement told the Times that “the result was massive levels of fraud, with adults renting or outright buying unrelated children in order to present themselves as a family, authorities said.”
The children typically are allowed into the country with an unrelated adult. Afterward, they are brought back over the border in a smuggling operation to return with another adult.
“Some of them had indicated they’ve made the trip as many as eight times, with separate, unrelated adults each time,” Benner added.
It is difficult to determine whether or not this bill will gain any traction in either chamber of Congress. Currently, the legislature is locked in yet another bitter debate over gun control that was brought on by two mass shootings that occurred in Boulder, Colorado, and Atlanta, Georgia.
Still, this is an important issue that must be addressed. Recycled minors are targets for sexual abuse, and it is possible that many of these children could be trafficked. Legislation such as the End Child Trafficking Now Act could make it easier for the authorities to safeguard vulnerable children and prevent migrants exploiting them from entering the country.