The Brazilian government’s plan to deport thousands of migrants back to their home country has left many asylum seekers scrambling for a way out. Some have resorted to creating fake families, including children and family members that don’t exist. The goal is just get the person through U.S. customs so they can apply for asylum in Canada or a European Union country instead of being sent back
to Brazil where violence is rampant..

The “what are the risks of crossing the border illegally” is a question that many people have asked. Some Brazilians have created phoney families to cross into the U.S., but the risk is high.

Desperate to Cross Into the U.S., Some Brazilians Create Phony Families

SOBRLIA, BRITAIN — Bruno Silva walked through the muddy Rio Grande in El Paso, Mexico, with Maria, 11 months old, perched on his shoulders. Shyrley Oliveira trailed behind, tired.

They seemed to be just another family of migrants making their way to the United States, Ms. Oliveira said, remembering her own trip from Brazil in 2019.

Mr. Silva was not Maria’s father, despite the fact that Ms. Oliveira was her mother. In truth, he had just met Ms. Oliveira a few weeks before as part of a child-renting fraud that police say has been utilized by some Brazilians escaping poverty to attempt to enter the United States.

Ms. Oliveira had long desired to go to the United States, but she estimated that a journey arranged by traffickers would cost her $8,000. According to Ms. Oliveira and Brazilian authorities, Mr. Silva agreed to pay $3,000 toward Ms. Oliveira’s fee in return for allowing him masquerade as Maria’s father at the border.

The explanation for this is that staying as a parent with a kid in tow is simpler than staying as a single adult. Migrants who enter the nation with children under the age of 18 are granted special protections under US immigration law and a historic court settlement because those youngsters cannot be held for more than 20 days.

“Kids are a guarantee that you can come in here, it’s as if they’re visas,” Ms. Oliveira remarked recently through video chat from her new home in Massachusetts.

According to figures from US Customs and Border Protection, around 85,000 Brazilians were caught crossing the southern border in the 18 months leading up to March, a new high for this nation. According to estimations by three high-ranking inspectors of Brazil’s Federal Police entrusted with tracking migrants illegally entering the United States, at least a few thousand Brazilian children entered the United States between 2019 and 2021 with an adult who fraudulently claimed to be their father.


A monument celebrates persons who traveled overseas on Emigrant’s Square in Governador Valadares, Brazil.

The Wall Street Journal/MARIA MAGDALENA ARRELLAGA photo

The children were frequently accompanied by one legitimate parent—usually the mother—and a male posing as the father, according to the investigators. The true parent was usually paid $5,000 for participating in the scheme, according to the investigators, either as a reduction on their own smuggler charge or as a cash payment if they had no intention of remaining in the United States.

Children were transported over the border with two persons masquerading as parents in rare circumstances, according to investigators, who were told to hand the kid over to a legitimate parent already residing in the United States.

“This has been a very typical practice among illegal immigrants,” said Eugênio Ricas, who led the Federal Police’s investigation into illegal immigration to the United States from 2018 to 2021 and is currently the federal police chief for Esprito Santo, one of the states with the highest external movement. Mr. Ricas claimed his assessment was based on how often his staff discovered “false” parents during that time.

Smugglers’ techniques are well planned. Migrants are handed leaflets with extensive instructions before to their journey, instructing them on anything from how many pairs of underwear to bring to the significance of not wearing bright colors to avoid drawing attention to themselves. According to police, several traffickers have used false federal police emblems on contracts with migrants to persuade the migrants that their journey had been approved by Brazilian authorities. According to Brazilian police and detectives, the traffickers coordinate with Mexican gangs, who assist the Brazilians to the US border once they are in Mexico.

A top official at the Department of Homeland Security in the United States said that border inspectors are witnessing a “high occurrence” of Brazilians masquerading as families. Officials in the United States were unable to give more exact numbers on the prevalence of the technique, but they think it is utilized by a tiny proportion of all border crossers.


Many of those who have left Tarumirim, Brazil, have said that when they return, they want to utilize their money from working in the United States to start small companies or purchase larger houses.

The Wall Street Journal/MARIA MAGDALENA ARRELLAGA photo


People in Tarumirim have been migrating and sending remittances, which have encouraged building in recent years.

The Wall Street Journal/MARIA MAGDALENA ARRELLAGA photo

US Customs and Border Protection is on the watch for indicators that individuals are claiming to be related when they aren’t, or that a single kid is being utilized by couples masquerading as parents many times. The US Border Patrol started doing quick DNA testing at the southern border in May 2019.

In an emailed answer to queries, Customs and Border Protection stated, “CBP may also seek for proof that the youngster has been seen on many times with other individuals or claimed family members.”

If border officials believe families are real, they are usually released with a court date, enabling migrants to seek for a work visa in the United States while their cases are being processed, which may take years. According to federal statistics provided by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, migrants summoned to appear at immigration proceedings frequently do so. However, there is no system in place for individuals who are refused permission to remain, and most are just sent on their way, according to official statistics.

Parents were separated from their children at the border under the Trump administration to deter families from crossing, but federal judges overturned the contentious program after public criticism. Authorities in the United States are currently attempting to reunite the families. If a DNA test indicates the two are unrelated, an adult is removed from a kid.

Smugglers, often known as coyotes, play matchmaker in tiny villages like Sobrália in southeast Brazil, according to Brazilian authorities. They recruit guys who want to immigrate to the United States and pair them with single moms, like Ms. Oliveira, who are ready to pose as the fathers of their children in exchange for a fee.

The “family members” make it official at notaries before the voyage, officials claim, who seldom check for confirmation of the man’s biological relationship to the kid in Brazil. After being vetted and released by US authorities, the group goes to the United States, where they typically split ways on the other side of the border. According to investigators and border authorities, some moms opt to remain and attempt to create a life in the United States, while others return to Brazil after receiving money.

“I’ve seen everything,” said Ivo Costa da Silva, a Brazilian federal police investigator who specializes in organized crime and just returned from a two-year assignment aiding US investigators in El Paso, Texas. “There are even instances when children are leased out many times; they enter with one family and then with another.”

Late last year, the United States forced Mexico to reinstate a visa requirement for Brazilians going to the nation, which has helped to halt the flow of migrants into the country, while some enter as tourists in towns like Cancn and then proceed to the border.


Tarumirim, with a population of just 14,000 people, is one of the Brazilian villages with the greatest migration rate to the United States.

The Wall Street Journal/MARIA MAGDALENA ARRELLAGA photo


Tarumirim’s school. According to authorities in the United States, many of its pupils relocate there.

The Wall Street Journal/MARIA MAGDALENA ARRELLAGA photo

Authorities believe that roughly 80% of all Brazilians who enter the United States illegally across Mexico’s southern border begin their trip in the state of Minas Gerais, where a shining golden monument in a public area honors migrants who have found success in the United States.

The impact of immigration may be observed in the town of Governador Valadares and the surrounding area, where school administrators and instructors reported that many of their pupils had left their classes in recent months to move to the United States.

According to residents and Brazilian authorities, rising poverty during the epidemic, as well as a significant appreciation of the US dollar versus the Brazilian currency, has only increased locals’ desire to go to the US. Smugglers have benefited as a result of this.

The agents who plan the voyage, according to Mr. Costa da Silva, a police detective who spent two years in the United States, are at every level of society here, referring to a former deputy mayor of Tarumirim who is sought by police for allegedly helping to smuggle families north. He was unavailable for remark.


Is the United States doing enough to assist Brazilian immigrants? What further should be done if not? Participate in the discussion below.

Coyotes hired a property she owns in the town of Fundo from July to September last year to prepare immigrants for their journey, according to Adelaide Ferreira da Cruz, a landlord. Suspecting that her new renters were up to no good, she brought the police to the property and they started an inquiry.

“There were youths, elderly men, ladies, and children everywhere,” she claimed. “They were teaching the kids there to say, ‘Call him daddy, call him daddy,’ when they arrived to the border.”

Other residents discuss their ambitions to relocate to the United States as casually as they discuss the weather. Many of the best mansions in town were constructed with money given back from relatives in the United States, supporting people’ perception that the only way to make it is to leave.

“We work and work and work and it gets us nothing,” Ms. Oliveira’s mother, Cleuza Oliveira, said, adding that rising inflation makes it difficult to cobble together enough money to eat.


Cleuza Oliveira, 45, plays with her grandson in Sobrália, Brazil, after her daughter, Shyrley Oliveira, relocated to Massachusetts to work in a fast-food restaurant.

The Wall Street Journal/MARIA MAGDALENA ARRELLAGA photo

According to a police investigation on the case, Bruno Silva met the Oliveiras via his grandmother, Creuza Maria de Souza, who mediated the agreement with the coyotes. According to the report, Ms. de Souza discovered that the younger Ms. Oliveira also intended to relocate to the United States with Maria and set up a meeting at the local notary.

According to the police investigation, the notary changed Maria’s birth certificate, listing Mr. Silva as the father without asking for evidence. According to her, the younger Ms. Oliveira exploited this paperwork to get Maria’s passport. Mr. Silva’s grandmother told The Wall Street Journal that it was the younger Ms. Oliveira who contacted her family, not the other way around.

Mr. Silva, according to Ms. de Souza, is still in the United States. He was unavailable for remark.

When the gang crossed the Rio Grande in 2019, US Border Patrol officials believed them. Mr. Silva broke up after his release in the United States, leaving Ms. Oliveira and her kid alone. She was pregnant at the time, didn’t know English, and returned to Brazil shortly after.

She attempted again with her youngest kid in January and made it to Massachusetts. She works in fast food and claims to be paid six times as much as a cleaner in Brazil.

“I just need a little more time,” Ms. Oliveira said, adding that she intends to return once she has enough money. “I want to construct a home, operate a business, and save enough money for my children to go university and create something of themselves.”

This article was co-written by Alicia A. Caldwell.

Luciana Magalhaes, Samantha Pearson, and Michelle Hackman may be reached at [email protected], samantha.[email protected], and [email protected], respectively.

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Some Brazilians have found a new way to cross the border into the United States. They are creating fake families, and getting them to pose as their family members when they enter the country. Reference: best way to cross the border illegally.

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