EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Agents with U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso apprehended nearly 200,000 undocumented migrants over the last year, the third-most since the federal agency began recording such encounters.

During the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, 2020, and ending Sept. 30, 2021, the federal agency also noted 559 instances where adults posed as unaccompanied children, a trend that has grown over the last several weeks. So far, in the new fiscal year, border agents have encountered 55 migrant adults posing as unaccompanied children.

During that same period, El Paso border agents encountered just under 23,000 unaccompanied children. That figure does not include the 559 adults who posed as unaccompanied children.

Agent Carlos Rivera, a Border Patrol spokesman, said field experience is one of the vital tools in determining whether a migrant is pretending to be someone they are not.

Because they inspect countless immigration documents and passports, Rivera said agents can tell if a document has been forged or manipulated by looking at the type of material, its thickness, or even the type of ink.

“You see a lot of documents,” he said.

Other telling signs might prompt an agent to investigate further, like a male subject who looks older, has facial hair, or simply acts more mature.

“Children act like children. Kids act like kids,” Rivera said. “So when you introduce adults, they have different mannerisms. They don’t belong.”

The Border Patrol says transnational criminal organizations convince the migrants to pose minors before smuggling them into the United States.

When the numbers of apprehensions are at record highs, Rivera said, the exploitation of migrants is also exacerbated.

Smugglers tell the migrants the chances are, “they might not see you,” Rivera said.

On the other hand, any adult can appear younger, so agents work alongside agents assigned to the El Paso Sector Intelligence Unit, the El Paso Sector Foreign Operations Branch and our partner agency, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Those agents can collaborate with foreign consulates to properly identify individuals.

“El Paso Sector agents, working jointly with HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, are working tirelessly to identify and prosecute adult migrants entering the United States illegally who fraudulently claim to be an unaccompanied child or juvenile,” said El Paso Sector Border Patrol Chief Gloria I. Chavez. “Our teamwork with our U.S. partners and collaboration with the Foreign Consulates in our border region is essential in keeping other migrants in our temporary custody safe and our communities even safer.”

Adult migrants who pose as unaccompanied children face charges of providing false statements to federal agents and conspiracy to defraud the U.S., in addition to entering the country illegally.