The federal government is investigating how detailed information about migrant children being held at two American military bases was obtained by con artists who are using it to lure unsuspecting relatives into paying hefty sums to reunite their families, preying on people who have been separated for years, says the New York Times. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Central America have crossed the southwest border in the last year. Amid the surge, it has sent several thousand of them to emergency detention shelters on military bases until they can be placed with relatives or sponsors in the U.S.while their cases are decided in court
The FBI says swindlers have got hold of precise details about the children to reach out to their relatives across the country, claiming that payments are required to cover the processing costs and travel expenses of reuniting families. Cases of the fraud have been reported in 12 states so far, from New York to California, with the con artists seeking $350 to $6,000 in so-called fees. “There are enough cases that it's not an isolated incident. It is a problem,” said Michelle Lee of the FBI in San Antonio. The leak of information is the latest setback in a saga that has compromised the Obama administration's broader aspirations for an immigration overhaul. Investigators are trying to determine whether a federal database on the children was hacked, or if a contractor or government employee with access to information on the minors sold it to con artists. The children whose families were targeted were housed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, military installations that have held nearly 4,500 unaccompanied minors since they began handling the overflow of Central American children arriving at the border.