Scammers Go After Migrant Children's Families for Thousands in Phony Processing Fees

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The families of unaccompanied migrant children are being targeted by fraudsters claiming there are fees associated with reuniting families. The F.B.I. is looking into how the processing status and location of children held at two bases, along with contact information for their family and friends in the United States, were leaked. 

The F.B.I. suspects either the database where the information is stored was hacked, or that a contractor or government official sold the information, according to The New York Times. Michelle Lee, an F.B.I. spokeswoman, said the con artists spoke fluent Spanish and target relatives and close friends for anywhere from $750 to $6,000. “Essentially, they are called and told there are application fees or cost for travel that must be paid, and most of the people assume there is a cost and don’t question it,” Lee said. 

This is just one more dark anecdote in the growing immigration crisis. Since October, more than 60,000 unaccompanied child migrants have been apprehended at the U.S./Mexico border. A growing number of those children are under 12 years old.

But recently, the number of children overall has started to drop. According to The Wall Street Journal, the number of children apprehended dropped from 300 a week in mid-June to about 100 last week. One migrant woman in Mexico said "people are now telling me that things have changed," as a result of the increased deportations, and she wasn't sure if it was worth it to continue. Administration officials said they weren't sure whether the downward trend in migrations would continue, or if other factors like the weather played a role. 

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What is clear is that the Central American countries repatriating their citizens don't have the resources to protect those who've been deported, or offer them counseling or therapy. The lack of resources, along with continued violence, prompts many to try again with coyotes, or smugglers. “The way it works is that you get three tries for your money,” Richard Jones, deputy director for the Catholic Relief Services’ Latin America program, told the International Business Times

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.