A record number of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children have been picked up in Texas by US Border agents this year as the Biden administration faces an unprecedented crisis at the southern crossing.
US Border Patrol in El Paso said Friday they had encountered more than 20,950 unaccompanied children through August 31.
The previous record high in the El Paso region was in 2019 when just over 16,000 unaccompanied children were picked up at the border.
In total, Border Patrol agents have picked up 130,710 unaccompanied children across the entire southern border between October 2020 and Aug. 31 this year.
Among the most recent picked up at border was a group of 20 children – the youngest being a 12-year-old girl – on Aug. 26, officials said.
Border Patrol released images of the group sitting in a row along the border wall after being picked up by agents.
The group, who were identified as being from Guatemala, were found walking dangerously close to a levee along the border wall near the Texas town of Ysleta.
Officials said the children were at risk of falling into the levee and drowning due to poor visibility, the swift current and high-water levels.
The group underwent medical evaluations and were given food, clothing and showers while they wait for Health and Human Services to find accommodations for them.
There have been various other incidents where children, ranging from five to 17 years, have been smuggled to the US border and then abandoned, El Paso border officials say.
“These pictures represent the sad reality of what is transpiring at the border,” El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez said.
“Transnational Criminal Organizations continue to exploit the most vulnerable population – children from foreign countries.
“They are responsible for placing the lives of thousands of unaccompanied children at risk by manipulating their parents and later abandoning their children at the border.”
It follows reports more than 10,000 illegal immigrants are waiting for asylum under the Del Rio International Bridge, the majority of whom are from Haiti, after crossing into the United States via the Rio Grande this week.
As of Thursday, Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said there were 10,503 migrants under the bridge, where food and water remain scarce.