MCALLEN, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — The influx of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the border may be triggering yet another problem for Border Patrol agents--fake family units.
Although there are no official numbers available, there are reports of unaccompanied immigrant children being approached by adult immigrants and told to pose as a family in order to have a better chance of staying in the U.S.
Workers at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio told Chris Cabrera with the National Border Patrol Council about what some of the immigrant children at their center experienced before crossing the border.
"There were a couple of boys there that were saying that men approached them at some point in their journey on the Mexican side and told them 'hey from this point until further notice, I'm gonna be your father and this guy's gonna be your uncle' and [they would] come up with a back story so they could both pass through," explained Cabrera.
Cabrera says luckily, the kids didn't go along with this plan. But their story raises concerns among Border Patrol agents that there are immigrants claiming to be fake family units in order to get a 'Notice To Appear' in immigration court, which is what is being interpreted as a "free ticket" to stay on this side of the border.
"If the child had no family here in the United States and he's unaccompanied, most likely he's gonna be returned back to his family in his country of origin," said Cabrera. "However, if he's traveling with a parent or some type of family member whether it's real or not, then most likely they would be released pending a court date."
Border Patrol does have a screening process for immigrant family units, but Cabrera says they lack adequate man power and resources to thoroughly process the current overwhelming number of undocumented immigrants.
Just like the overall issue of illegal border crossings, fake family units not only raise concern from a legal standpoint, but also as a humanitarian issue.
"We don't wanna see a kid with an adult that he doesn't know who they are and what could happen to him," said Cabrera. "And at some point they'll part ways and now you have a kid wandering the streets of the United States looking for a family member who knows where."