Thousands of unaccompanied minors arrive at US-Mexico border as Border Patrol grapples with COVID-19 deaths

Thousands of unaccompanied minors arrive at US-Mexico border as Border Patrol grapples with COVID-19 deaths

Originally Published in USA Today

Rick Jervis - December 8, 2020

The number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border has nearly doubled in recent weeks, and smugglers are using riskier tactics to get them across, a top U.S. Border Patrol official says.

Agents are apprehending an average of 153 young migrants a day at the border since October, up from about 80 a day earlier this year, Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz, Border Patrol's second in command, said in an interview with USA TODAY.

In all, Border Patrol agents apprehended 4,764 unaccompanied minors in October, up from 741 in April – a more than 540% jump, according to court filings by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol. In a six-day span in November, border agents apprehended 997 unaccompanied minors – more than in the entire month of April.

Most worrying are the large numbers of those considered "tender age" – 12 and younger and sometimes as little as 7 months old, he said. In October, agents rescued two Honduran siblings – a 13-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl – from an island in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas. On Monday, 10 migrants under 14 were stopped by border agents in South Texas, Ortiz said.

"By itself, those numbers are a little alarming," he said. "What is concerning is this tender-age population."

Unlike similar surges in young migrants last year and in 2014, when the minors largely turned themselves in to border agents after crossing into the U.S., smugglers this year are trying to sneak the minors furtherinto the U.S. through remote areas of South Texas, floating them across the Rio Grande in rickety rafts and hiding them in stash houses, he said.

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