Some migrants in Mexico are trying to buy children from single mothers in local shelters so they can more easily get into the United States, according to shelter directors, migrants and Tijuana law enforcement authorities. A decades-old law, known as the Flores agreement, says migrant children should only be held briefly in US border custody, which often means they are released with the parent or guardian with whom they crossed while they wait for their asylum cases to be heard. Typically, migrants apprehended at the border with their children are only held in custody for a few days. Single adults who cross the border can face months in detention. US border authorities have been warning since June 2018 about people fraudulently using children who are not theirs to pose as family units and gain entry. These are cases of desperation. Of course, the women have not accepted any of these offers, but clearly this is a huge concern because of the danger to the children Pastor Gustavo Banda, a Tijuana shelter director Authorities in Tijuana are now warning migrant mothers to supervise their children after reports of men offering to buy them. “I can’t go to work because I can’t take my eyes off my boys,” said Antonia Portillo Cruz, a 44-year-old migrant from Honduras, who said the men have been targeting the shelter where she stays. She said she has seen men asking women in the Iglesia Embajadores de Jesus shelter about buying their children, but they never offered to buy her boys, aged eight and 10. Narcos: the hidden drug highways linking Asia and Latin America Portillo Cruz said mothers have been offered about 7,000 pesos (US$350) for each child. She is worried the offers of money will turn into demands or kidnappings. “They want to rob our kids so they can cross into the United States,” she said angrily. A spokesman for Tijuana police confirmed the reports and said federal authorities are investigating. Pastor Gustavo Banda, a Tijuana shelter director, said families at the shelter are terrified and feel forced to keep all their children locked inside at all times. “These are cases of desperation,” said Banda, who runs the Embajadores shelter. “Of course, the women have not accepted any of these offers, but clearly this is a huge concern because of the danger to the children.” Banda now keeps a chain lock on the fence around his shelter and said staff do not let children outdoors unsupervised. He said some men are offering money to single mothers to pair up as a fake family unit and cross together. “The entire border of Tijuana is practically closed for the migrants, even those from Haiti,” he said. A 15-year-old from Haiti saw the men approaching the shelter asking for children to buy. “It’s horrific,” said the teenager, who was too afraid to give her name. “I could not even imagine the horror before I came here. I just wonder what happens to the kids once they make it across. It’s not like their mum or dad who will care for them no matter what.” Banda said none of the mothers in his shelter have sold their babies. He said as soon as he heard of the threat several weeks ago he called the police, who have been monitoring the shelter every day to try to identify the suspects. Mexico warns of ‘deep concern’ for migrants over intimidating armed groups on US border In June 2018, Homeland Security secretary at the time Kirstjen Nielsen was criticised for justifying family separations at the border by warning about adults falsely claiming they were the parents of migrant children they were travelling with. “From October 2017 to this February , we have seen a staggering 315 per cent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country,” Nielsen told the National Sheriffs’ Association in June last year. Though her data was correct, The New York Times said instances of family fraud were only a small percentage of the overall number of families apprehended at the southwest US border. At the Agape Mission shelter in south Tijuana, Pastor Albert Rivera said he has been alerting authorities to criminal groups looking for unaccompanied minors. Trump calls off tariffs on Mexico after deal on illegal immigration “One of the problems is the state government of Baja California has no system to monitor these unaccompanied kids, so they have no idea how many are here and would have no idea if some were missing,” he said. In May, Homeland Security officials said they would start DNA testing families arriving at the US border to weed out fakes and “rescue children from dangerous situations”.