WASHINGTON – At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a senior committee member, expressed concern about the lack of public outcry being paid to child exploitation at the southern U.S. border. In particular, Grassley pressed for more resources and public awareness to address child recycling: the practice of smuggling young children back and forth across the border to help unrelated adults appear as a “family unit” so they get special treatment when entering the country.

“It’s kind of outrageous to me that we hear all this talk about a humanitarian crisis at the border, that it may be manufactured by the President of the United States and yet we have these obvious mistreatment of children, recycling of children, being paid to do it, probably the cartel benefiting from it. And there doesn’t seem to be the outrage that there ought to be, particularly in the media of the United States that is the police force for our democratic system of government,” Grassley said at the hearing. 

“And it’s outrageous that we can’t pass legislation to correct this. And somehow, you know, passing a little piece of legislation stopping [child] recycling as an example – that wouldn’t be so important that you wouldn’t worry about having a bipartisan agreement to get a bill passed.”

Grassley referenced several examples of migrants fraudulently posing as families with unrelated children, including Ramon Pedro, who claimed an unrelated teen as his daughter when entering the United States. Though Pedro was found to be inadmissible, he was released into the interior and later arrested on rape and child endangerment charges for offenses against the teen.

Despite reporting of federal indictments involving child recycling or “child renting,” several media outlets continue to claim that little evidence exists to substantiate warnings by immigration officials of the practice.

At today’s hearing, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan testified that immigration officials recently interviewed a sample of 1,568 cases involving family units and found 242 to be fraudulent.  Separately, a DNA pilot program found 17 instances of fraud out of 109 cases over a three-day period. Grassley is cosponsoring legislation to improve information sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to better prevent exploitation of child migrants.

In a Monday tweet, Grassley called on President Trump to bring more attention to the crisis in the face of media skepticism.

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