Federal immigration officials said an Honduran man illegally entered the U.S. with an unrelated 6-month-old infant and falsely claimed to be the infant's father.
"Cases like this demonstrate the real danger that exists to children in this disturbing new trend," said Homeland Security Investigations Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs. "And while we have seen egregious cases of smugglers renting and recycling children, this case involving a six-month-old infant is a new low — and an unprecedented level of child endangerment."
Amilcar Guiza-Reyes, a 51-year old citizen and national of Honduras, was previously deported in 2013.
Guiza-Reyes made an initial appearance in federal court on May 10, charged with alien smuggling for allegedly smuggling the 6-month-old infant across the U.S.-Mexico border.
On May 7, Guiza-Reyes was observed by U.S. Border Patrol wading across the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the U.S. near Hidalgo, Texas, carrying an infant child.
During his conversation with Border Patrol agents, the man allegedly claimed the infant was his son.
Investigators said the man then presented a fraudulent Honduran birth certificate at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas.
During an interview with HSI special agents, the man allegedly admitted he obtained the child's fraudulent document to show him as the father and that he intended to use the child to further his unlawful entry in to the U.S.
The child in this case, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, was transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services for placement.
In recent months, HSI has deployed 130 personnel to the border, including special agents, forensic interview specialists, document examiners and victim assistance specialists, in an effort to combat this phenomenon.
Last week, HSI conducted a brief DNA testing pilot as an additional investigative tool in this endeavor. HSI is still assessing the results of the pilot, but the technology has already been used to identify cases of fraudulent families and has served as a deterrent.
Between mid-April and May 10, HSI special agents interviewed 562 family units suspected of fraud. Of those interviewed, 95 fraudulent families were identified. More than 176 fraudulent documents or claims have also been uncovered.
"Our goals remain two-fold: One, to protect children from being smuggled across the border by ensuring they are with their parents and not being used as pawns by individuals attempting to exploit immigration loopholes," said Erichs. "And two, to identify and stop the criminal organizations that are generating false documents and supporting child smuggling."
The adults involved in this fraud will be presented to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for federal prosecution for family fraud related crimes including: immigration crime, identity and benefit fraud, alien smuggling, human trafficking and child exploitation.