WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) along with Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced the End Child Trafficking Now Act. During her recent trip to the Southern border, Senator Blackburn heard how drug cartels and transnational criminal gangs traffic and exploit migrant children to gain illegal entry into the country. Representative Lance Gooden (R-Texas) introduced companion legislation today in the House of Representatives.
“Children are tragically being trafficked across the border by illegal immigrants who falsely claim they are related. This needs to stop—for the wellbeing of these children and the security of our nation. One simple way to address this problem is by having DNA testing in place so we can ensure that an unaccompanied minor is actually connected with the person claiming to be their family, not being used as a ‘human passport’ to illegally get across our border,” said Senator Joni Ernst.
“Unaccompanied children are passing through our border with the help of strangers and members of cartels, putting these children at an increased risk of sexual abuse and human trafficking,” said Senator Tillis. “This is completely unacceptable and the Biden Administration’s response has been severely lacking. This legislation is a commonsense, humane reform to how we determine family relationships at our border and can help prevent innocent children from being abused. I am proud to work with my colleagues so we can protect these children from a life of cruelty and hardships.”
“We need to stop criminals from exploiting our immigration policies and using vulnerable children as pawns to get into the United States,” Senator Rounds said. “Our legislation would help rescue children from human trafficking by mandating a DNA test to verify family ties at the border. If family ties cannot be proven, children will be processed as unaccompanied minors and their kidnappers will not be released into the U.S.”
"The exploitation of innocent children taking place at our border is horrific. We must do everything in our power to stop human traffickers and put an end to this disgusting practice," said Representative Gooden. "This bill allows law enforcement to quickly evaluate the veracity behind every claim of a familial connection at our border."
Unaccompanied children made up nearly 10% of the 100,441 arrests for illegal border crossings in the month of February 2021. For the month of March, the government has caught an average of 523 unaccompanied minors a day over the past three weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal. At that rate, March would set a record month, with 16,000 unaccompanied children apprehended.
- The bill requires DHS to deport alien adults if they refuse a DNA test and mandates a maximum 10-year prison sentence for all alien adults who fabricate family ties or guardianship over a minor.
- It also criminalizes “child recycling,” which happens when the same child is used repeatedly to gain entry by alien adults who are neither relatives nor legal guardians.
- If family ties or legal guardianship cannot be proven with the accompanying adult, the Act requires HHS to process the child as an unaccompanied minor under current law.