Michael Albence, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said that the federal law enforcement agency is facing a "new area" of human trafficking along the U.S. border with Mexico as children are used to try to gain admission into the country.
Breitbart News asked Albence to explain the role of human trafficking as it relates to the border crisis. He said:
Frankly, it's a new area of trafficking that we didn't see before and that's the recycling of children. Children that are being utilized and sold and rented in Central America and Mexico; given to unrelated adults for the sole purpose of them coming into the country illegally and posing as a family ... to try to be released.
Albence said that last year ICE dealt with more than a thousand cases of what he called "fraudulent families" and that the agency has dedicated 400 special agents and analysts to cope with the phenomenon.
He said DNA testing has been used to determine familial relations as part of ICE investigations.
"We know children are being sent back three, four, five times to Central America only to be re-victimized and brought back in, and God knows what they're suffering as they're going through that process," Albence said.
The Heritage event highlighted the severity of the human trafficking problem in the United States, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children receiving 18.4 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation and abuse in 2018.
Ironically, during the same week, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations, now controlled by Democrats, held a hearing on how children crossing the border are treated while in federal custody.
Kathleen Rice, chairwoman of the subcommittee, harshly criticized Custom and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that has initial custody of people entering the country, at the hearing, including naming six children who have died while in custody.
Rice said in her opening remarks:
We've seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of families and children arriving on the southern border over the past several years. Most of these families and children arrived from Central America, fleeing vicious cartels, gang violence, and extreme poverty. And after surviving long, dangerous journeys, these families should have been with met with safe refuge.
Rice accused CBP of keeping people in "inhumane conditions."
But Brian Hastings, the man in charge of operations at CBP, defended the agency and explained the overwhelming number of people it has had to deal with.
Hastings said in his prepared testimony:
During FY (fiscal year) 2019, CBP apprehended or found inadmissible more than 1.14 million individuals. Eighty-five percent of those encounters - more than 977,500 - occurred on the Southwest border, an average of nearly two apprehensions or findings of inadmissibility every minute of every day for the entire year.
During FY 2019, USBP Southwest border apprehensions exceeded 851,000 - the highest level since FY 2007. Nearly 65 percent of USBP apprehensions were families and children - more than 473,000 individuals - the highest number of family units in any year on record and an increase of 342 percent over the previous record.
"In total, USBP processed more than 321,000 alien children on the Southwest border during FY 2019," Hastings said.
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