FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is leading legislation that would give border officials the ability to fingerprint children as part of an effort to stop child trafficking — which has exploded with the migrant crisis at the southern border.
Blackburn’s Preventing the Recycling of Immigrants is Necessary for Trafficking Suspension Act is being introduced with 17 other Republican senators and would allow Customs and Border Protection officials to fingerprint children under the age of 14.
The bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to report the number of apprehensions each month in which a trafficker falsely claimed that a child with whom they were traveling was a relative.
It would also remove the authority of the attorney general to waive fingerprinting requirements at the border and would criminalize child “recycling” — in which children are used repeatedly to allow non-related adult migrants to appear to be part of a family unit, meaning it is less likely they will be removed.
Concerns about child recycling have lingered for years. In 2019, then-acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan told lawmakers of how a 51-year-old man “bought” a 6-month-old child in order to exploit “a loophole” to allow him to be released.
Those concerns have remained amid a historic migrant crisis at the southern border since 2021. Related are concerns about child trafficking after reports that officials were unable to make contact with more than 85,000 child migrants and that administration officials reportedly ignored signs of “explosive” growth in child labor.
It is not clear how regularly children are recycled at the border, but DHS has acknowledged that crimes of exploitation, including child exploitation “occur at alarmingly high rates” in the U.S. and abroad. DHS has made tackling a new mission area in the agency’s quadrennial review.
However, Republicans have linked the crisis to the policies of the administration, including its rolling back of Trump-era policies to prevent the release of migrants into the interior and its reduction of interior enforcement.
Blackburn said in a statement that the U.S. is witnessing a “devastating humanitarian crisis, and children are the primary victims.”
“Abusing and using a child again and again is one of the most heinous acts imaginable, and yet it happens every day along the southern border,” she said.
“Empowering Border Patrol agents to fingerprint non-citizens under the age of 14 would give them the tools they need to identify victims of child recycling and stop this abuse in its tracks,” she said. “Given that the Biden administration just carelessly lost track of 85,000 migrant children, passing this legislation could not be more critical.”
Senators joining the bill are Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, John Hoeven, R-ND, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Katie Britt, R-Ala., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
The bill comes as lawmakers in the House have expressed concern about a new settlement the administration made with civil rights activists over the Trump-era “zero tolerance” policy. The settlement prevents the separation of family units, which lawmakers warned could incentivize cartels posing as minors’ relatives to enter the U.S.