New video from U.S. Border Patrol reveals the horrific scene of two immigrant children – a toddler and her five-year-old sister – dropped by smugglers over a 14-foot-high border wall in the middle of the New Mexico desert in the middle of the night.
Agents spotted the two girls from Ecuador on a remote camera and were able to locate them in an area just west of El Paso. They took them to a local hospital to be checked and cleared before transporting them to a temporary holding facility.
The smugglers who dropped the sisters can be seen fleeing into the Mexican desert, but Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez in the El Paso sector said they're partnering with Mexican authorities to find them.
"We are currently working with our law enforcement partners in Mexico and attempting to identify these ruthless human smugglers so as to hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law," said Chavez.
The girls are just two in a sea of 18,000 unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody. Border Patrol agents say many have suffered unimaginable atrocities at the hands of drug cartels and smugglers who bring them to the U.S.
Oscar Escamilla, the acting executive officer of the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, spoke with media this week touring a facility in Donna. He recounted a young migrant who couldn't speak – Border Patrol was transporting her to receive medical care.
"I asked the medical staff what happened. And the reason she was going to the hospital was because she had gotten gang-raped," he said. "And the reason that she couldn't speak was because she had lost her voice in the process while she was getting raped."
Also this week, Texas Rangers rescued a six-month-old baby girl who smugglers threw into the Rio Grande. That happened just days after a nine-year-old girl lost her life trying to cross the river.
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The crowded Donna facility has only cold floors and foil blankets for children to sleep at night. Right now, 500 kids cram into rooms meant for 32.
Dr. Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, says the conditions reflect the desperation of many people in Central America.
In the midst of poverty made worse by two hurricanes last year, they're willing to risk sending their children to the U.S. alone, knowing the Biden administration will hear their cases as unaccompanied minors.
Many teenagers are choosing the dangerous journey rather than submit to the gangs that control their home countries.
"Their other alternative is to be pressed into service in a gang. Or if they're girls, to be pressed into service as the girlfriend of a gang member," explained Selee. "And if you don't want that life and you want to be able to help your family, sometimes heading up to the border – as dangerous as that is and as scary as that is – is a better option."