Human trafficking: 2-year-old, 3-month-old sibling found abandoned by Border Patrol along Rio Grande

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EAGLE PAS, TX – Earlier in September, Border Patrol agents working near Eagle Pass found a toddler and an infant, later found to be siblings, abandoned along the Rio Grande.

The agents reportedly found the children after noticing “an unusual color” that stood out along the riverbank.

According to a press release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol agents assigned to the Eagle Pass South Station happened upon a 2-year-old girl and a 3-month-old boy, who were identified as siblings and Honduran nationals, while “performing boat operations” along the Rio Grande River on September 14th.

Agents had noticed “an unusual color” among the riverbank at approximately 12:00 p.m. and went to go investigate. When investigating the standout color, the agents found to two children alone and seemingly discarded and immediately retrieved them.

There was reportedly a note left under the carrier where the infant was inside of that identified the children – noting their Honduran nationality and status as siblings. A further search around the area found no other persons.

Two children found abandoned by Border Patrol agents along Rio Grande - courtesy of CBP
Two children found abandoned by Border Patrol agents along Rio Grande – courtesy of CBP

Neither of the children required any medical attention and were later transported to the Uvalde Station for processing.

This discovery by the Border Patrol agents serves as the latest example of young children seemingly being left intentionally along the border – often times by smugglers – in the hopes of these children being found by Border Patrol agents.

The rationale for this move, as many speculate, is that it triggers a process where once the children are apprehended, they’ll be processed in the United States and eventually be released to sponsors in the country. Which, those sponsors tend to be parents or relatives.

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We at Law Enforcement Today recently shared a report regarding this tactic employed by smugglers that seems to exploit the family reunification process when unaccompanied minors are abandoned at the border.

Here’s that previous report.

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According to reports, in August 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released over 18,000 unaccompanied migrant children to sponsors within the country.

Reportedly, another 16,000 unaccompanied migrant children are still being held by the federal government and are awaiting release to other various sponsors.

Throughout August, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an average of 605 unaccompanied migrant minors to sponsors per day, compared to another 518 captured along the southern border daily, resulting in an almost redundant cycle of migrants-in-migrants-out.

The figures do not include minors from Mexico, according to HHS. Those children are usually repatriated right back to Mexico.

Many of these children, primarily teenagers, are typically sent into the United States by parents or other relatives to avoid deportation under the Trump administration’s CDC COVID-19 emergency order, according to a source within CBP.

Once these sorts of minors are in HHS custody, a relative will usually illegally enter the country and claim the child so as to initiate the family reunification process that wouldn’t dig too deep into the immigration status of the parent or relative inside the country.

This fiscal year, the number of unaccompanied migrant children who entered the U.S. illegally is astonishing. CBP reports that between October and July, 113,791 people were apprehended. This is a roughly 250 percent increase above the totals for 2020.

To deal with the inflow of adolescents, the Department of Health and Human Services created more than a dozen emergency intake centers. These facilities make use of COVID-closed convention halls and abandoned oilfield man camps.

Inadequate personnel, drinking water concerns, and COVID-19 safeguards have all been attributed to these sorts of unlicensed facilities.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott slammed the Biden administration earlier this year for the conditions at various HHS detention centers, citing a water shortage in Midland and a COVID-19 outbreak in Carrizo Springs as examples.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that detaining a single unaccompanied migrant minor cost $775 per day.

The expense of housing detainees at other long-term institutions is estimated to be around $275 per day. When looking at these numbers through the lens of the cost to the American taxpayer, those figures and the number of unaccompanied migrant minors now in detention is costing over $6 million a day.

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We at Law Enforcement Today previously reported on the ballooning costs associated with housing these unaccompanied minor migrants. Here’s that previous report from April of 2021.

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WASHINGTON, DC – According to a report from CNN, the Biden administration is spending at least $62 million a week to help house and care for unaccompanied migrant children that are currently in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Since the beginning of March, the Department of Health and Human Services collectively announced or opened 11 new facilities, with reportedly more to come in the future, as a means to transfer unaccompanied minor migrants out of Border Patrol stations and into facilities more appropriate for children.

Locations such as convention centers and military sites are among these sorts of facilities being retrofitted to address the surge of unaccompanied minor migrants that have crossed into the country.

Reportedly, the daily cost to house these unaccompanied minors winds up costing over twice as much than that of the department’s already formed shelter program, coming in at approximately $775 per day, per minor – as opposed to it traditionally costing around $290 per day.

From what the Department of Health and Human Services says of the inflated expenditures, the increased costs are predominantly due to the agency having to quickly develop these facilities and hire staff in a relatively short period of time.

These temporary facilities that are being erected will reportedly afford an additional 16,000 beds to help accommodate and care for these unaccompanied minors; that figure is in concurrence with the already established 13,721 beds present within the department’s permanent shelter program.

As of April 8th, there were reportedly 8,124 unaccompanied minors settled into these temporary facilities, as well as 8,876 unaccompanied minors occupying beds in the department’s permanent shelter program.

Furthermore, as of April 8th, there were still at least 3,881 unaccompanied minor migrants still in the custody Customs and Border Protection – an agency simply not equipped to properly care for and house children.

Despite these ballooning costs associated with housing unaccompanied minor migrants, White House officials say that there are currently no plans to approach Congress seeking additional funding for this endeavor.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data showed that just in the month of March the agency had encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minor migrants, which served as a record high for the agency.

That March figure was also nearly double the number of unaccompanied minor apprehensions that transpired in February.

While agencies are working their best to address the issues affecting the southern border, the fact of the matter is that unaccompanied minor migrants are being encountered and apprehended daily at a rate that surpasses the number being discharged daily from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and former HHS official, commented on the conundrum the agency is experiencing in light of the border crisis:

“The basic problem right now is that each day more children are arriving than are being released to parents and sponsors. There will keep being a need for more capacity, unless either the number of arriving children goes down or HHS is able to more quickly release children.

“The important thing it’s accomplishing is helping to get children out of CBP holding facilities, which are severely crowded, not a good place for children during any circumstances, particularly so during the pandemic.”

The speed in which the Department of Health and Human Services can discharge unaccompanied minor migrants to a guardian is highly contingent upon whether or not the child already has a living relative in the United states or not.

For instances when unaccompanied minors have a parent or guardian in the United states, their average length of stay in HHS custody is about 25 days. However, when it relates to a sponsor with no relation or a “distant relative,” that average length of stay can increase to up to 54 days in HHS custody.

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