CBP Using Multi-Layered Approach to Detect Counterfeit Visas

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HIDALGO – An attempt to enter the U.S. with counterfeit visas landed two people in custody this week.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS wanted to take a closer look at how officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection identify falsified documents.

A CBP supervisor says even the fraudulent crossers’ body language plays a role in highlighting their illegal activity.

Maria Esther Diaz says she enters the U.S. often to catch great shopping deals. The Reynosa native says when she crosses, she does it the legal way with a U.S. embassy-issued visa in hand.

She says she’s heard stories of people crossing with counterfeit visas. She says that’s always a bad idea.

“Because sooner or later they will get caught. So it’s better to have an original, even if it costs a little more,” she says.

On Sunday, two Central Americans were caught attempting to cross the Hidalgo International Bridge with counterfeit visas.

Customs and Border Protection Supervisor Maribel Saenz tells us for security reasons, she can’t disclose exactly what characteristics officers look for to determine if a presented visa is counterfeit. However, she says there are several red flags that officers pay close attention to.

“Our officers are trained to detect anomalies,” she says. “Every time a visa is issued, their biometrics are captured. So when they are making entry and we want to make sure it’s the person that’s presenting the visa, we can go ahead and check their biometrics to make sure they match.”

Saenz says if they don’t match, that’s the first red flag. She explains in many cases fraudulent crossers give themselves away.

“The body language of the person, the way they behave when they are in front of you when we are conducting our interview. All that comes into play when the officer is conducting the inspection,” she tells us.

Saenz adds CBP officers are always sharpening their skills. She says seeing hundreds of documents daily allow them to stay ahead of this common problem.

Diaz says she’ll continue doing things the legal way.

Saenz says the first two times a crosser is caught with counterfeit documents, the infraction is considered a misdemeanor. She says if caught a third time, the infraction becomes a felony.

She tells us punishments and sentencing is later determined by a judge and varies on a case-by-case basis. 

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