U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a video Wednesday showing alleged smugglers "viciously" dropping two young children over a 14-foot-high border barrier in the New Mexico desert, officials said.
A Border Patrol agent using camera technology Tuesday evening observed a smuggler dropping two girls – sisters ages 3 and 5 from Ecuador – from the top the barrier, just west of Mt. Cristo Rey, authorities said. After both kids landed on the ground, footage shows the smuggler and another one run away and abandon the girls on the north side of the international boundary line.
The Border Patrol agent alerted agents, who then found the girls at the remote location and rendered aid to them. The two toddlers were alert when the agents made contact with them, according to CBP. They were taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons and evaluation.
The children were medically cleared and remain in custody of border patrol, pending placement by the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with the long-term care of most unaccompanied children.
Border Patrol El Paso sector chief patrol agent Gloria I. Chavez said in a statement she was "appalled" the way the smugglers "viciously dropped innocent children" from the barrier.
"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," Chavez said. "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."
The video comes amid a worsening border crisis. Last month, nearly 9,500 unaccompanied children arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, a record high for any February in history. U.S. border officials are on track to take more than 16,000 unaccompanied minors into custody in March — an all-time monthly high.
Earlier this week, reporters got ain Donna, Texas, which was supposed to only house no more than 250 migrants during the pandemic. The tent complex held more than 4,100 migrants, including 3,200 unaccompanied children, a border patrol official said.
While HHS has been scrambling to find enough beds for the minors arriving at the southern border, the department is on track to open nine emergency housing facilities for migrant children, repurposing convention centers, camps for oil workers and military bases with the objective of adding more than 16,000 beds by the end of April.
Additional reporting by Camilo Montoya-Galvez, Mireya Villareal and Nicole Sganga.