Blackburn, Ernst Lead Bicameral Bill to Protect Migrant Children from Human Traffickers at Southern Border

September 10, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the first two Republican women to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, have introduced legislation to combat asylum fraud and protect children arriving at the border from falling victim to human trafficking. S. 2420, the End Child Trafficking Now Act of 2019, amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to require a DNA test to substantiate the familial relationship between an alien and an accompanying minor. The legislation will prevent drug traffickers and gang members from trafficking children.

“It is horrifying that children are becoming victims of trafficking at our southern border,” said Senator Blackburn. “By confirming a familial connection between an alien and an accompanying minor, we can determine whether the child was brought across the border by an adult with nefarious intentions. The current crisis at our border is multifaceted and requires a holistic approach. By tackling these problems piece by piece, we will get this situation under control.”

“During my visit to the southern border this summer, I heard directly from Customs and Border Patrol agents about children who are tragically being trafficked across the border by illegal immigrants who falsely claim they are related. These children are being used as a ‘passport’ to get across our border, and this needs to stop. One way to address this problem is by having DNA testing in place so we can ensure that an unaccompanied minor is actually connected with the person claiming to be their family, and not being used as an innocent pawn to skirt our immigration laws,” said Senator Joni Ernst.

Rep. Lance Gooden (TX-05) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Senators Blackburn and Ernst are respected leaders in the fight against human trafficking. Their knowledge and insight will help us achieve our common goal of ending the exploitation of children on our southern border,” said Rep. Gooden.


False Family Ties Fuel Fraudulent Asylum Claims and Child Trafficking. More than 5,500 fraudulent asylum claims have been uncovered at the Department of Homeland Security since May 2018. Earlier this year Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implemented a pilot program that found 1 in 5 claims of kinship were proven fraudulent. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reported that unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border are especially vulnerable to trafficking, as coyotes, drug cartels, and local gangs force children to serve as mules and perform sex acts. As a precaution, CBP now administers pregnancy tests for women as young as 12 upon arrival at most centers.

Amend Law to Require DNA Tests and Penalize Traffickers. The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with DHS, to administer DNA tests for all adults accompanied by minors claiming a familial relationship without legal documentation at a port of entry. To deter asylum fraud, the bill requires DHS to immediately deport alien adults if they refuse a DNA test and mandates a maximum 10-year prison sentence for all alien adults who fabricate family ties or guardianship over a minor. If family ties or legal guardianship cannot be proven with the accompanying adult, the Act requires HHS to process the child as an unaccompanied minor under current law. The Act allows proven family members to move forward with the immigration process in accordance with current procedures.

End Child Recycling. Traffickers rely on loose asylum laws to use and reuse exploited children to cross the border. To address this cyclical abuse, the Act criminalizes “child recycling,” which happens when the same child is used repeatedly to gain entry by alien adults who are neither relatives nor legal guardians.