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Federal agents set up in Arizona border town to weed out fake families

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – U.S. immigration officials have assigned several teams to border towns, including one in Arizona, to root out possible exploitation of children by adults trying to gain entry.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said special teams have discovered children were being used to create fake families to get into the country.

In the past week, one of those investigative teams was sent to Yuma, Arizona.

“We’re committed to protecting children by ensuring they’re with their parents upon arrival and not used as pawns,” Lon Weigand, deputy special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix, said Wednesday on KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Teams include a forensics interviewer who are trained to deal with children, and a field investigator.

The agency said in a press release that in April a man from Honduras gave a false birth certificate for a 7-year-old traveling with him.

The man finally admitted during an interview he wasn’t related to the child. Agents turned the child, now considered an unaccompanied minor, over to a refugee resettlement office.

“We recognize the potential exists that fake families may develop,” Weigand said.

“We’re a victim-centered organization,” Weigand said. “We’ll have victim assistance specialists that will be deployed with these teams.”

ICE also reassigned about 330 deportation officers to areas “most deeply impacted by the unprecedented surge being encountered at the Southwest border,” according to the release.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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