The Trump Administration’s latest crackdown on illegal immigration is targeting parents who pay to have their children smuggled into the country. To do so, officials are targeting those who have been deported once and re-entered the US illegally, and then paid to have their children brought to the border, because illegal re-enter is faster and easier to prove than child smuggling charges.
The ICE defines human smuggling as, “Importation of people into the United States involving deliberate evasion of immigration laws. This offense includes bringing illegal aliens into the country, as well as the unlawful transportation and harboring of aliens already in the United States.” This differs from human trafficking in that smugglers are paid to transport people from one place to another, and traffickers often kidnap or buy humans in order to exploit them for their own financial gain.
Human smuggling comes with its own risks, however. According to a recent article in the New York Times, many children have reported being raped or held for ransom by their smugglers, and of those held many are beaten or even murdered when family members aren’t able to pay the demanded price. Some children are abandoned as they’re making their way across the border.
Illegal immigration has spiked since the summer of 2014 due to increased gang violence and poverty in many Latin American countries. Many immigrants are fleeing extreme violence, and with the crackdown on immigration making it even harder to enter the US legally than ever before, many see smuggling as the only way to get their children to safety. Chris Rickerd, policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said “It’s extremely cruel when you started shutting down refugee applicants and rescinding protections for children brought to the country at a young age, to send this kind of message to parents trying to get their kids to safety.”