Pretending a Child is Yours When Crossing the Border Could Be a Crime
State Congressmen Brooks Landgraf has introduced House Bill 888, which is designed to combat child trafficking at the border. HB 888 would make it a Class B misdemeanor to knowingly misrepresent a child as a family member to a peace officer or a federal special investigator, such as an ICE agent, at a port of entry. A Class B misdemeanor carries a punishment of up to 6 months in county jail and a fine up to $2,000.
Illegal immigration may be the number one hot button topic in the media today. One of the biggest stories has centered around children being separated from their families and placed in detention centers. Many children are brought into the country for much more nefarious reasons, however.
Detained Families at the Border
Last year there were approximately 70,000 immigrants that were apprehended as part of a family unit, including children. The Department of Customs and Border Protection also estimates that about 40,000 children cross the border without a parent or a legal guardian at all. Meanwhile the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement estimates that there are about 12,000 children in detention centers, the majority of which crossed the border without a parent or guardian.
Not all the children that cross the border are attempting to enter the country in search of a better life. Many are brought against their will and trafficked in as sex workers or laborers. It is estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 people are trafficked into the country each year. Easily the most common reason people are trafficked into the United States is for sex work.
A Means to Prevent Child Trafficking?
A study by the Center for Court innovation found that there are upwards of 10,000 children between the ages of 13 and 17 that are commercially exploited each year.
Attempts to curb human trafficking in the United States have been met with mixed success. Often times, the response is to increase criminal liability for human trafficking or to create new laws that outlaw certain behaviors that would hinder the trade.
One such attempt to change the law in Texas is the aforementioned HB 888. The bill would criminalize a tactic used by traffickers to bring children into the country by claiming the children as their own.
The question is, even if the bill passes, would it actually deter child sex trafficking in a meaningful way? How many people would be arrested under a law like this? Could the law be used to punish people who bring children across the border for other reasons as well? It is foreseeable that parents adopting children from another country may face punishment if they do so without the proper authorizations.
We will have to see how the bill is debated and if it passes it may be years before we really know the impact of it.