Bad Things Happen When ‘Unaccompanied Alien Children’ Are Unidentified Adults
Last week’s congressional hearing on exploitation of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) touched briefly on the sketchy vetting process that ushers them into this country. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., is going deeper for answers.
Though not a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security and Enforcement, Rutherford is determined to find out exactly how the Border Patrol handles adult migrants who claim to be minors. The Jacksonville congressman has a particular interest in this after a 24-year-old Honduran man posing as a UAC killed a resident in his district.
“The [Border Patrol’s] default position seems to be, ‘If you can’t figure out who they are, let them in,’” Rutherford says. “It’s just unacceptable to me that somebody gets to come to America, comes across the border illegally, and we have no idea who they are.”
In 2021, a migrant presenting himself as Reynel Alexander Hernandez, age 17, was released at the southern border and flown to Jacksonville to live with a man he claimed to be his uncle. Months later, after “Hernandez” was arrested by Florida authorities for the murder of Francisco Javier Cuellar, authorities learned his real name was Yery Noel Medina Ulloa, age 24.
This phony UAC now has his U.S. residence at a Florida penitentiary, where he is serving a 60-year prison sentence.
Rutherford wants U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to publicly disclose its general orders, operating procedures and training for how agents carry out background checks on migrants who claim, without proof, to be 17 years old or younger.
Under U.S. law, minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada cannot be deported. Medina Ulloa undoubtedly understood this, since he lied about being seven years younger than he was.
CBP Commissioner Troy Miller says the ironically titled Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Protection Act mandates that his agency hand over minors – and those purporting to be minors without verification — to Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Neither Miller nor CBP has explained the basis for Medina Ulloa’s release, or why his age, identity and background were not uncovered during the screening process at the border. Rutherford and members of the immigration subcommittee aren’t satisfied with the bureaucratic runaround. They note that ORR has no investigative authority to vet eligibility, and functions simply as a placement service.
At the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., said it’s abundantly clear the system “cannot handle the volume” of purported UACs entering the U.S. “We’re destroying our country by making a place for [human smuggling] cartels.”
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, told the panel, “The Biden administration threw gasoline on this dumpster fire” by tripling the number of UAC admissions to 120,000 a year.
How many of them aren’t even minors remains an unanswered question.