CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal works with law enforcement along the Mexican border where a spate of unaccompanied migrant children is entering the United States
NORAH O’DONNELL: Good evening and thank you for coming to us. We will start with a humanitarian crisis on the southern border that is getting bigger and worse every day. Tonight we have the stunning new numbers. Sources tell CBS News that more than 13,000 migrant children who entered the country without their parents are currently in US custody.
The government says more adults are being turned away every day. The Homeland Security Minister admits today that so many people are crossing the border that his department is well on the way to stopping more migrants than in the last 20 years. And with so many children, including toddlers, flocking to the country now, CBS News has learned that the Biden administration is running out of space to accommodate them and the people to process their claims.
Now President Biden said today he currently has no plans to visit the border and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says while the situation is difficult his department is taking action. But critics of Mr Biden, including Republicans in Congress, are accusing the president tonight of undoing the Trump administration’s strict border policies.
We have a lot of new reports about it, along with some major headlines about two coronavirus vaccines. Our team is ready. CBS’s Miyera Villarreal will be leading our coverage tonight from the southern Texas border. Good evening, Miyera.
MIYERA VILLARREAL: Good evening, Norah. Currently, CBS has learned that unaccompanied minors are detained in facilities like this one for an average of 120 hours. That is five days and far more than the legal requirement, 72 hours. The Biden government calls this a challenge, but the local law enforcement officers we embedded in say this is an absolute crisis.
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Despair and frustration mount when groups flock to the US. Deputy Ruben Salinas does his regular duties during the day and patrols the banks of the Rio Grande at night.
RUBEN SALINAS: We have an average of around – most of it is around 300.
MIYERA VILLARREAL: A historic number of migrants entering the US illegally created an overwhelming need for more aid in the Rio Grande Valley.
RUBEN SALINAS: Unaccompanied children usually range from 7 to 13. And the smallest is about seven, and he was alone.
MIYERA VILLARREAL: [SPEAKING SPANISH] The first group we find during our embedding with Deputy Salinas and Sergeant Roger Rich is small.
– – [SPEAKING SPANISH]
MIYERA VILLARREAL: [INAUDIBLE] is from Honduras and is traveling with her five year old son Derek, who quickly tells me that he hid his money in his shoes under two pairs of socks so it doesn’t get wet. The two hope to live with their family in Florida while the asylum application is processed.
RUBEN SALINAS: They are quite steep banks along this river.
MIYERA VILLARREAL: Police officers do not have the authority to arrest anyone. Instead, they direct them down the road to this border sanctuary. Some migrants are being processed under a bridge out here and given foil blankets while they wait. This group of unaccompanied teenagers tells us that they have just crossed the river and more people are coming.
RUBEN SALINAS: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
MIYERA VILLARREAL: There are more than two dozen in this group. It’s dark, they’re wet, and there are lots of young children clinging to their parents. But there are also several children of their own.
RUBEN SALINAS: Bolivia – he’s alone.
MIYERA VILLARREAL: At the very back of the group is a 10-year-old boy who travels alone. [SPEAKING SPANISH]
– – [SPEAKING SPANISH]
MIYERA VILLARREAL: An aunt, yes? [INAUDIBLE] Rosales from Honduras looking for a glimmer of hope in the dark.
NORAH O’DONNELL: And Miyera is back with us from the southern border. So Miyera, I know they keep people like those in these tents behind you. But what happens to these children then?
MIYERA VILLARREAL: So, as you said, many of them are processed in a tent here or sometimes under the bridge, as you have seen in our story. From there they’ll go to shelters like the one that opens tomorrow in Dallas. Then another federal agency will take over and look for family members or perhaps guardian sponsors to take in the child while they continue to fight their asylum case in the US. Norah?
NORAH O’DONNELL: Good. Miyera Villarreal, with all the new numbers tonight, thank you.