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Border Patrol agents in Texas last week cared for a toddler after the child was rescued from human smugglers posing as a family — as officials in Washington sound the alarm about the continued danger of such activity at the border.
The child was rescued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, while the two smugglers,who’d been posing as a family, were taken into custody.
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After it was determined that the child had no relation to the smugglers, the Uvalde Border Patrol Station took care of the child for nearly 24 hours. The child was then placed in the custody of Health and Human Services.
In a press release, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said agents “personally cared for the toddler over the course of three shifts.” The child’s relatives have not yet been identified, while the smugglers are being held by HSI pending charges.
“Of all the people that smugglers exploit, children are the most vulnerable,” said Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul L. Ortiz. “Thanks to the cooperative efforts between HSI and Border Patrol, this child was removed from a dangerous situation and properly cared for.”
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CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan maintained in a Fox News interview last month that agents are being vilified despite efforts to care for children amid a crisis at the southern border.
“The men and women of CBP, they are caring for these kids like they’re their own kids, I’ve seen it,” he said. “I’ve seen where they brought in their own clothes and toys early on during this crisis for these kids”
The toddler’s rescue comes as officials and lawmakers have been calling for changes to immigration law to stop children from being used as de facto passports to the U.S. by migrants crossing the southern border.
The 1997 Flores court settlement limits how long unaccompanied children can be held in custody to 20 days. In 2016, a court ruled that the limit also applies to minors accompanied by adults. It has led to a situation where migrants know they are likely to be released into the interior of the U.S. if they are accompanying a child.
The Trump administration has sought to end the settlement, but has been blocked by a legal challenge. But officials have pushed several measures they say have effectively ended “catch and release” for families at the border.
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Under one such measure, migrants from Central America will be returned to their country of origin, unless they claim fear of being returned — if they do, they will mostly be returned to Mexico to await hearings under the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP).
Democrats have accused the Trump administration of running detention centers with inhumane conditions as part of a “cruel” immigration policy.
“This administration has admitted to using cruelty as a deterrent, and that includes forcing migrants to wait their turn to apply for asylum in Mexico,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said last month.
In the House and Senate, lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require DNA testing to verify relationships between adult migrants and children.
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