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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Girls thrown off the border wall and boys abandoned in the desert: Dozens of children have had to be rescued after being left stranded mid-trip to try to reunite with relatives already in the U.S.

The big picture: Smugglers are pouncing on the desperation of people in Central America and South America. The smugglers promote their services on Facebook with fake promises of safe trips and easy immigration processes.

  • Almost 19,000 unaccompanied minors, a record, were picked up by authorities during March, the highest monthly number on record, according to official data.
  • Many people are desperate to leave for the U.S., or to send their children, to escape growing poverty, famine, violence and the devastation of two hurricanes that hit Central America in November.
  • "Here there was nothing but [government] neglect and hunger," the aunt of the two girls coyotes threw from the wall said to Noticias Telemundo from Ecuador. "Maybe if there had been food they wouldn’t have had to go there."
  • Girls have accounted for around 70% of the children in Department of Health and Human Services shelters during the past weeks.

Between the lines: The Department of Homeland Security also announced Wednesday it’s investigating 5,600 additional cases of children possibly separated from their parents under the "zero tolerance" policy of the previous administration.

  • The Biden White House has yet to reunite any of the hundreds of kids who are already known to have been separated.
  • On a call about immigration with Vice President Kamala Harris Wednesday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said a goal is to "combine efforts to combat human trafficking and to protect the human rights of boys and girls especially."

With the U.S. immediately expelling adults who cross illegally, a record 22,000 people have instead requested asylum in Mexico.

Go deeper

Biden has yet to reunite any migrant families separated under Trump

Photo: Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

Not one of the hundreds of migrant families separated from President Trump's zero-tolerance policy has been reunited under President Biden thus far, senior Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Reuniting migrant families was one of Biden's clearest immigration-related promises.

CBP picked up a record number of children at the southern border in March

An migrant girl from Central America in Brownsville, Texas. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. authorities picked up a record number of unaccompanied children —nearly 19,000— at the southern border in March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Thursday.

Why it matters: Crossings of unaccompanied minors are on the rise and are expected to continue for months, possibly reaching as many as 26,000 by September, Axios previously reported.

Updated Apr 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas launches investigation into claims of abuse at migrant facility

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference in Austin in May 2020. Photo: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images

Texas officials have launched an investigation into reports alleging sexual and other abuse and neglect at a San Antonio facility housing migrant teenagers who'd arrived from the southern border, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday.

Why it matters: The investigation into the three separate reports at the Freeman Coliseum marks the first time state officials have announced a probe into an emergency facility set up by the U.S. government in Texas in response to a significant rise in border crossings of unaccompanied youths, AP notes.