After many complaints, the Biden administration finally granted media access this week to one of the overcrowded border facilities in Donna, Texas. Border patrol agents are also sharing harrowing details of what the unaccompanied children faced on their journey to the U.S.
"The untold stories of these little, those little ones, God knows if these kids were molested during their journey," said Oscar Escamilla, acting executive officer of the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley.
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With more than 18,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody, border agents are overwhelmed and haunted by the stories told by the children now in their care.
"You know, about a month and a half ago, I was back here talking to one of the little girls, and I told the congressional delegation the same thing," recalled Escamilla. "We were going to send her to the hospital. And as I got closer to her, I noticed that she couldn't speak. And I asked the medical staff what happened. And the reason she was going to the hospital because she had gotten gang-raped. And the reason that she couldn't speak was that she had lost her voice in the process while she was getting raped."
Escamilla explained a high number of unaccompanied children since their parents know they won't be sent back.
"They know that we're releasing them. They know that right now there's nothing stopping them. We're not going to deport them back to their country," said Escamilla. "So they keep coming in droves. And right now, these kids, we're starting to see younger and younger kids being brought over by their sponsors, by relatives, by grandparents, wherever it is in the family that is actually asking for these kids and paying the fees to smuggle these kids into the country."
"Obviously, the parent pays a fee to the smuggler. The cartel member or the smuggler at this point will bring the kid over, will bring them to the river, will hand him over to the, to the raft, and will place them in a raft and say, OK, go," he continued. "When you get to the other side, I'll explain to them there's going to be an officer. They'll explain what we were and tell them, turn yourselves into them."
Migrant children are sleeping shoulder to shoulder on hard floors with aluminum blankets in the Donna, Texas, facility.
"Every facility we have on the southwest border is over capacity right now," said Raul Ortiz, deputy border chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.
While the Donna facility is designed to hold about 250 in the pandemic, more than 4,000 are currently packed inside.
"Our facilities were never designed to hold people for more than a couple of days, much less eight or nine days which we've seen," continued Ortiz.
But not all kids are coming alone. One mother holding a two-month-old baby told reporters she was fleeing poverty and violence in Guatemala. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced the rescue of a 6-month-old baby girl who smugglers threw into the Rio Grande River. The human traffickers had assaulted the child's mother, resulting in a broken leg.
"All the government officials tell us they are doing the best they can, but they're being overwhelmed by sheer numbers," said Sen. John Cornyn (R - Texas), during a press conference at the border over the weekend.
President Joe Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to take the lead on stemming migration, an issue she discussed with faith leaders at the White House Wednesday.
"I know that a lot of you are working on this issue in many ways to the extent that you have thoughts and experience about what we can do to address some of the root causes that cause people to flee their home because we all know most people like being at home," said Harris. "We have to ask why do people leave that, and usually they leave because there is a lack of opportunity or it is just not safe."
The White House is also clarifying this week that Harris is in charge of tackling the root causes of why people are leaving their countries, not overseeing the major issue of the escalating situation at the border.
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