Blackburn, Tillis, GOP colleagues unveil End Child Trafficking Now Act

With the Biden administration expected to end familial DNA testing at the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and several of their Republican colleagues on June 7 introduced a GOP-led bill that would require such tests to continue.

“The Biden administration’s decision to halt all DNA familial testing is a grave misstep that not only puts the safety of Americans at risk but also increases the number of migrant children being trafficked,” Sen. Blackburn said. “My legislation would stop criminals in their tracks and help protect children from exploitation — an idea we should all be able to support.”

Sen. Blackburn sponsored the End Child Trafficking Now Act, S. 1843, with 10 original cosponsors, including Sen. Tillis, to require a DNA test to determine the relationship between illegal immigrants coming across the border and any accompanying children.

“Right now, there is a serious humanitarian crisis at our southern border as cartels, coyotes, and other bad actors are exploiting innocent children to cross our border,” said Sen. Tillis. “This is completely unacceptable, and the Biden Administration’s response to these unaccompanied minors’ increased risk of sexual abuse and human trafficking has been severely lacking.” 

The bill would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deport illegal immigrant adults if they refuse a DNA test; and mandate a maximum 10-year prison sentence for all illegal immigrant adults who fabricate family ties or guardianship over a minor, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Blackburn’s office.

Additionally, S. 1843 would criminalize “child recycling,” which happens when the same child is used repeatedly to gain entry by illegal immigrant adults who are neither relatives nor legal guardians. And the bill would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to process the child as an unaccompanied minor under current law if family ties or legal guardianship cannot be proven with the accompanying adult, the summary says.

“As many as 30 percent of children DNA tested were found not to be related to the illegal immigrants posing as family members,” Sen. Blackburn said. “Meanwhile, drug cartels and gangs use minors to falsely present themselves as family units and seek asylum at our southern border.”

“Unaccompanied children are crossing the Southern border with the help of strangers and members of cartels, putting them at an increased risk of sexual abuse and human trafficking,” said Senator Tillis. “This legislation is a common-sense, humane reform to help prevent innocent children from being abused.”

Among the lawmakers who joined Sen. Tillis as an original cosponsor of S. 1843 are U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and John Hoeven (R-ND). U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) introduced the companion bill in his chamber.

The National Police Association; Tom Homan, former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and Yuma County (AZ) Sheriff Leon Wilmot endorsed the bill.

“Failure to secure our southern border has created a humanitarian crisis and tragically greenlit the trafficking of innocent children. This practice must end for the well-being of children and the security of our nation,” Sen. Ernst said. “By putting DNA testing in place, we can address this problem to ensure no unaccompanied minor is used as a pawn by someone illegally crossing our border.”

Sen. Daines agreed, calling the Biden administration’s “open border crisis” a humanitarian crisis. “It is high time we secure the border and stop facilitating human trafficking and the exploitation of children,” he said.

“The crisis at the southern border isn’t ending anytime soon,” added Sen. Cassidy. “It’s an open door for human traffickers and cartels. The End Child Trafficking Now Act stops Biden from undoing safeguards for children like familial DNA testing.”

Sen. Hoeven said that he has traveled to the southern border several times during the last few years and the United States needs to stop the illegal immigration crisis.

“Children are being trafficked at the border by individuals claiming to have family ties in order to exploit our immigration laws. This humanitarian crisis needs to stop,” said Sen. Hoeven. “ICE and CBP officials agree Rapid DNA testing deters illegal crossings. Mandating DNA testing will help to ensure that bad actors are punished for trafficking these children.”