Abandonment Issues Haunt Children at the Border



While questions concerning the whereabouts of parents of 545 unaccompanied migrant children grabbed headlines last month, the rescue of a dozen minors abandoned at the border went virtually unnoticed.

U.S. Border Patrol agents near Hidalgo, Texas, located the children, including a 7-month-old traveling with his teenage brother, on the night of Oct. 24. The children were discovered when officers encountered a group of illegal aliens shortly after a human smuggler rafted them across the Rio Grande. A majority of the group were unaccompanied minors.

Officers interviewed a 13-year-old Honduran national, who was carrying the infant, and determined that their mother abandoned them three weeks prior to their entry into the United States.

The Texas episode highlights the ongoing problems created by parents who hand their children over to coyotes to get youngsters across the border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended 30,557 unaccompanied minors (ages 0-17) at the southern border during Fiscal Year 2020. Though that’s roughly half of last year’s volume, the number of unaccompanied Mexican minors increased to 14,359, the highest since 2014.

“Even with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, human smugglers continue to try these brazen attempts with zero regard for the lives they endanger,” CBP stated. The agency could have included the absentee parents in its indictment.

Although the media played up a lawsuit claiming that 545 parents of children separated from them at the border could not be located, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed a fresh set of numbers and facts.

“Out of the parents of 485 children whom plaintiffs’ counsel has been able to contact, they’ve yet to identify a single family that wants their child reunited with them in their country of origin,” DHS said.

FAIR suggested that the parents willingly and strategically separated from their children. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) offered two motivations:

1. To have their children live in the relative comfort, safety and affluence of the United States.

2. The possibility that, if their children are allowed to remain here, those parents will be able to join them.

And here’s one crucial unanswered question: How many of the separated parents have been deported? “The closer that number gets to zero, the likelier it is that they don’t want to be located — by DHS, [Health and Human Services], or anyone else. Because, if they are, they run the risk of being removed,” CIS observed.

Even one separated or abandoned child is one too many. To report responsibly on this troublesome issue, America’s media must dig deeper, and not lose sight of the fact that the problems begin beyond America’s borders.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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