The U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief on Wednesday condemned human smugglers after a series of incidents that left one girl dead and three others in perilous situations.
“The inhumane way smugglers abuse children while profiting off parents’ desperation is criminal and morally reprehensible,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
“Just this month, a young girl died by drowning, a six-month-old was thrown into the river, and two young children were dropped from a wall and left in the desert alone. There can be no doubt that children are exceptionally vulnerable when placed in the hands of smugglers. There is grave risk they will be exploited and harmed. I applaud our heroic Border Patrol agents who have saved lives this week and every week, while putting their own lives at risk for the greater good of the country,” added Mayorkas, who was meeting with President Joe Biden and other Cabinet officials at the White House on Thursday.
A 9-year-old girl from Mexico drowned while trying to illegally cross into the United States four days later, officials said. Border Patrol agents rescued her and two others who were stranded on an island on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River, but were not able to revive the minor.
Video footage captured two toddlers being dropped over the border wall into the desert in New Mexico on March 30. Border agents were able to save them.
“I’m appalled by the way these smugglers viciously dropped innocent children from a 14-foot border barrier last night. If not for the vigilance of our Agents using mobile technology, these two tender-aged siblings would have been exposed to the harsh elements of desert environment for hours,” the Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez said in a statement.
The number of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. southern border has jumped in recent weeks as the Biden administration stopped expelling them.
Under President Donald Trump, America was using Title 42 emergency powers due to the COVID-19 pandemic to send the kids back to their home countries.
Biden also reversed or changed other key Trump-era measures, which critics say has led to the skyrocketing number of immigrants entering the United States.
“There’s a word for what’s happening at our border. It’s insanity,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said after senators toured the border late last month. “Every day, thousands of migrants are racing towards our border. Yet those migrants are not running away from Border Patrol officers, they’re running to the Border Patrol officers because they know and their smugglers and their traffickers know that they can game our asylum system. They can be released into the country in a matter of days, sometimes a matter of hours and they will never have to go back to their home country.”
He called on the president to tell migrants that they would be expelled if they cross into the United States. “And until Joe Biden says that, the madness will continue,” he said.
White House officials, including Biden, have claimed the border is not open, even as more and more immigrants are caught and released under their new policies.
At the current pace, the number of illegal border crossings will hit its highest in 20 years, Mayorkas said last month.
“The situation at the southwest border is difficult. We are working around the clock to manage it and we will continue to do so. That is our job. We are making progress and we are executing on our plan,” he added.