“March on the Border”: Texas border rally showcases horrors of child trafficking and child exploitation

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MCALLEN, TX- According to reports, more than one hundred visitors and residents in the Texas border city of McAllen attended a rally and march to the border wall to showcase the dangers of child trafficking. 

One guest speaker at the event, Karla Jacinto, recounted her story as a victim of child trafficking at the age of 12.

Retired ICE-Homeland Security Investigations Agent Victor Avila, who survived a brutal cartel attack in Mexico, also spoke to the crowd about child trafficking cases he investigated during his career.

The event, attended by more than one hundred residents and visitors to McAllen, opened with an invocation by Dr. Nilsa Alvarez, who recounted the open cases of missing and exploited migrants.

Dr. Alvarez asked the crowd to pray for those victims and their safe return to desperate family members.

The event culminated with a march to the border wall gate. Karla Jacinto shared intimate details of being a victim of child trafficking after becoming enamored with a man who later forced her into prostitution in Mexico at the age of 12.

She added that a dysfunctional home environment that included sexual and physical abuse made her an easy target for exploitation at a young age. She said the man she initially thought she loved waited three months to finally reveal his plans for her.

The man, she says, forced her into prostitution and at one time forced her to work as a prostitute even while she was pregnant.

She said that after delivering her child, the baby was taken away from her. She added that she was faced with being forced to cross illegally into the United States by her captor on several occasions.

She avoided being trafficked across the border to be exploited further and was ultimately rescued by a person she credits with helping her to find the strength and recognize her self-worth as a human being.

Now, Karla advocates on behalf of victims and shares her story to bring awareness to the issue.

Victor Avila, a retired ICE investigator, survived an attacked by Los Zetas Cartel gunmen in Mexico in 2011. Avila was shot three times in the attack that killed his partner, HSI investigator Jaime Zapata. At the march, Avila told attendees about the process traffickers use to exploit children. He said:

“There is force, fraud, and coercion involved in human trafficking. Sometimes, it’s one, others it’s all three.”

In once case he investigated, Avila explained that human traffickers killed and disposed of a newborn child at a brothel in New York by encasing the baby in concrete. The body was kept where the victims could see it. He said:

“Think about how that affects the victims, the breakdown of the psyche, the mental, physical, emotional state of them. People sometimes think victims are shackled, no, they are mentally coerced.”

The event was coordinated by Landon Starbuck, an artist and advocate for ending child trafficking and exploitation.

Starbuck told Breitbart Texas she is concerned about the lack of advocacy for the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border. 

Back in July, Border Patrol agents and a remote CBP officer saved a Guatemalan migrant teen from being transferred to a registered sex offender who was listed as her “sponsor.” The girl was apprehended along with a group of 85 migrants who crossed from Mexico into Texas.

The young girl was identified as an unaccompanied minor from Guatemala. The 16-year-old provided agents with the name of a sponsor in California. She claimed the sponsor was a family friend. In a written statement, Border Patrol officials wrote:

“By memory, she provided demographic information of her alleged sponsor, which is rare and raised concern from agents.”

Rio Grande Valley Sector officials said in a statement:

“As more cases of unaccompanied juvenile migrants arise, public awareness is imperative as migrants face dangers each day.

Although we are faced with the rising numbers of apprehensions, our Border Patrol agents utilize their investigative techniques and work collaboratively with other law enforcement authorities to safeguard migrant children.”

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Reports: Migrant children face heartbreaking conditions, disease and sexual abuse in shelters under Biden

June 28th, 2021

TEXAS – Migrant children being detained by the Biden administration along the southern border are reportedly desperate to escape disease-ridden and sex abuse-prone government shelters where even the food is not safe.

The Associated Press (AP) and the BBC are reporting widespread health and safety concerns for children held in shelters as the crisis at the border grows.

According to the AP, more than a dozen immigrant children described conditions one might expect in a third world refugee camp, but not in the most powerful and richest country in the world.

The AP described interviews conducted by immigration advocates with some of the children from the detention locations:

“A 13-year-old Honduran girl who spent two months at the government’s largest emergency shelter for migrant children said she was put on suicide watch and was eating only popsicles and juice because the food smelled so foul.

“At another site, a 17-year-old Salvadoran girl said she had to wear the same clothes and underwear for two weeks and spent most days in bed.”

At another Texas facility, a 16-year-old boy told the AP that he was waiting to be cleared to go live with his sister in New Orleans, but had not visited with a caseworker in over three weeks:

“I am desperate. I wouldn’t mind being here for 20 or 30 days if I knew that I was going to be released soon. But because the process hasn’t started and because I had no idea what’s happening or when the process will start, that makes me feel very, very anxious. I don’t know when this will end.”

Immigration advocates conducted interviews with the children between March and June. Advocates filed the interview reports on Monday in a federal court assigned to monitor custody conditions of unaccompanied minors held in detention.

The Biden administration has claimed that improvements have been made to the shelters, but advocates have argued that the children are being detained too long before being reunited with family, and that living conditions are poor to dangerous.

The administration said it has increased efforts to move the children quickly through the shelters and on to family or licensed long-term care facilities.

The efforts have reduced the number of unaccompanied children in government custody, but in court filings, children described waiting for weeks in facilities without much activity, minimal education, and no information on when they would be released.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pointed to the shelter at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas as a success story. The facility’s occupancy has decreased from about 4,800 unaccompanied children to about 1,600 since April.

The facility reportedly does odd exercise programs, weekly case manager meetings, and a library for children. However, children still report problems.

One Honduran girl on suicide watch at the facility reported that she could not sleep because the lights were always on. She described the food as “horrible,” including soggy salad and foul-smelling bread. The girl said she only eats popsicles and juice.

When the girl filed her report, she had been at the facility for 60 days and claimed she was threatened with a longer time at the facility if she attempted to escape.

She said her uncle in New Mexico completed paperwork for her to live with him, but she is still in the shelter:

“I have been here for a really long time. I really want to leave.”

The BBC investigated Fort Bliss, the county’s largest emergency shelter, and found 12 tents, including some that house hundreds of children at one time. The BBC reported:

“Findings from the BBC’s investigation include allegations of sexual abuse, Covid [coronavirus disease] and lice outbreaks, a child waiting hours for medical attention, a lack of clean clothes, and hungry children being served undercooked meat. The BBC has spoken to camp employees about these conditions and seen photos and video smuggled out by staff.”

One unidentified staff member told the BBC that children feel like they are in prison:

“It is heartbreaking to hear their stories and to see them very plainly suffering and to hear the same kinds of complaints over and over again about things that could be corrected so easily.

“After a child has been here for a few days, they say, ‘you’ve got to get me out of here as soon as possible. I just can’t stand it anymore.’ They feel like they are in a prison.”

Democrats attacked the Trump administration for its handling of unaccompanied children during his term but have remained silent since the inauguration of President Biden.

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Report: Biden offers federal employees months of paid leave to help care for unaccompanied children at the border

April 13, 2021

 

WASHINGTON, DC – The Biden administration is asking federal employees to pause their normal duties to take paid leave to assist with the processing and caring for an increasing number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border.

Employees who volunteer will serve a fourth-month detail with the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to a memorandum sent out March 25 by Kathleen McGettigan, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The memo reads:

“The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to support the Administration’s urgent efforts to care for and place Unaccompanied Children who have entered the United States via the southern border.

“HHS is seeking interested candidates to serve up to a 120-day voluntary deployment detail as part of the HHS, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), Unaccompanied Children (UC) Program.

OPM and HHS are calling upon our Federal Agency family of exceptional public servants to lend support to this humanitarian effort through this detail opportunity.”

The Biden administration has refused to call the situation at the border a crisis, but the numbers are making that refusal difficult to continue. In March, border agents encountered nearly 19,000 children at the border, the largest number ever recorded in a single month. The flow of migrant children is expected to continue to grow in the coming weeks.

The federal government has more than 20,000 children in detention facilities. Government projects show there could be more than 35,000 migrant children to care for by June.

This week, the administration reportedly sent emails directly to federal employees asking them to volunteer for paid leave to help care for the unaccompanied minors. The emails were sent to employees at agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and NASA, according to a report by The New York Times.

In the March memo, the administration asked agency supervisors to allow staff to volunteer for the four-month detail, and that each agency would be reimbursed for the expense:

“We are requesting that agencies support this effort by encouraging supervisors to allow interested staff to volunteer for the details.

“We continue to be inspired by the spirit of volunteerism and dedication to public service demonstrated by all those across the federal government who have supported many response efforts in the past.”

President Biden has already deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the border to assist with the growing number of arrivals, but HHS still requires additional staffing. A FEMA spokesman said the agency is doing what it can to support the inflow of minors:

“FEMA is supporting the Department of Health and Human Services’ response to the arrival of unaccompanied children at the southwest border. FEMA is actively engaged with HHS to quickly expand capacity for safe and appropriate shelter, and to provide food, water and basic medical care.”

Despite the administration’s refusal to declare the situation at the border a crisis, Rep. John Katko (R-NY), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, used the FEMA deployment as an opportunity to call out the administration:

“If FEMA is involved, it’s a disaster by definition. The secretary is tasking FEMA to help on the southwest border, it further demonstrates the severity of the situation.”

 

 

 

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