In April, Ramon Pedro showed up at the Ysleta Port of Entry in Texas with a juvenile girl he claimed was his daughter and demanded entry into the United States. And, as with so many so-called “family units” like them, border officials acquiesced, releasing the man and his daughter into the country on the assumption that they’d show up for their court date.
But when the pair showed up for tuberculosis screening in July, medical staff at a Fresno hospital were horrified to discover the girl wasn’t related to the man at all. Instead, they found she’d been repeatedly raped and sexually abused.
It turns out the young girl’s mother had actually handed her over to Pedro, a rapist and human smuggler, so she could come to the United States and find a job.
“In fact, the victim’s mother told her daughter to accompany Pedro to the United States and he would secure her employment,” a Homeland Security official said in a statement.
The horrifying case comes as the surge of families — and those portraying themselves as families in order to take advantage of lax immigration policies — has roiled the immigration debate.
The number of families surged in recent years as smugglers figured out adults got more lenient treatment if they came with children in tow. While single adults are usually quickly deported, families were processed and released on the hopes they would return to be deported later.
The Huron Police Department arrested Pedro on July 27 and charged him with multiple felony counts of rape, oral copulation, forcible sexual penetration and endangering/causing injury to a child. He is currently held in the Fresno County Jail on a $310,000 bond.
The horrific story comes just a few months after the Trump administration caught national flack for implementing a policy of temporarily separating children from their families at the border, a move the administration rightly claimed was necessary to determine whether kids were actually related to the adults bringing them across from Mexico. Simply releasing “families” without determining their relation sets the stage for a host of problems including sex trafficking and kidnapping, a cycle that puts untold numbers of children at risk of being used as tickets into the United States.