SANTA TERESA, N.M. (AP) — Video released Wednesday by federal authorities show two Ecuadoran children being abandoned by smugglers after they were dropped over a 14-foot-high barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The toddler and her 5-year-old sister were unhurt, but officials with the U.S. Border Patrol called the incident appalling.
It comes as the Biden administration struggles with finding space to house the several hundred kids and teenagers who are crossing the border daily. In some cases, parents refused entry into the U.S. have sent their children across the border alone, hoping they eventually will be placed with relatives. As a result, holding facilities are packed, and the administration is scrambling to find more temporary housing options.
Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez in the El Paso sector, which includes parts of Texas and New Mexico, said an agent using a remote camera was able to spot a person straddling the barrier. The video shows the person lowering the children one at a time before letting them drop to the ground below. The children stood up as two people fled on the other side of the border.
“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,” Chavez said in a statement.
Authorities said Santa Teresa border agents were able to find the 3- and 5-year-old sisters after being directed by the camera operator to the remote location in New Mexico, just west of El Paso, Texas. The girls were alert but were taken to a hospital to be checked out and cleared. They currently remain at a Border Patrol temporary holding facility pending placement by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.