Lance Gooden

In recent months, Homeland Security officials have testified before Congress about an unimaginable practice taking place on our southern border: child recycling. Asylum seekers have discovered a loophole in our immigration laws which grants preferential treatment to families over individuals. As a result, criminals have begun abducting, purchasing, or renting children in order to impersonate families when entering the country. 

This loophole was created in 1997 by a court settlement which limited the amount of time families can be held while awaiting an asylum hearing. After 20 days, they are released into the country and asked to return for their hearing, although most never do. Once released, traffickers smuggle the children back across the border into Mexico to be used again and again. Homeland Security officials say they’ve discovered more than 5,500 fraudulent families over the past year. 

In one case, a man purchased a baby in Guatemala for $80 and approached our border to claim asylum. Following questioning and a request by Homeland Security officials that he take a DNA test to confirm kinship, he admitted his wrongdoing. The DNA tests were conducted under a pilot program which identified nearly one in five families as fraudulent. I’ve introduced legislation to expand and make that program permanent.

My bill, the End Child Trafficking Now Act, would require anyone claiming to be a family at the border to provide proof of kinship. In the event they can’t produce documentation or a credible witness, it would require them to take a DNA test. The test is quick and painless, just a mouth swab taking only 90 minutes to produce results.

This bill would legally define “child recycling” and levy a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for those found guilty. The End Child Trafficking Now Act will send a loud and clear message to those seeking asylum that exploitation of children will not be tolerated.

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