About 1,200 illegal immigrants, including a large percentage of unaccompanied minors and adults bearing young children, are crossing the Mexican border every day while the Border Patrol deals with paperwork, says a Democratic congressman, decrying what he terms a "critical situation" in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.
"[I]f you're just looking at the lower Rio Grande Valley, we're getting about 1,200 people a day. Over 70 percent of them are not from Mexico but from other places, and 300 to 400 of them are young people coming in without parents," says Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, reports CBS Dallas-Fort Worth
As this human tide pours into the U.S., Cuellar says "almost 40 percent of the Border Patrol agents are not at the border. They're actually filling out paperwork, transporting, feeding, moving these folks around."
Cuellar says illegals from Central America seem motivated by a belief that if they arrive in the U.S. with small children, they will not be sent back.
"We're facing a situation where the smuggling organizations know that if you send them to south Texas and they're not Mexicans, they're from other countries, they're going to be released after a while," Cuellar says, according to the CBS report.
The Houston Chronicle
recently detailed an incident that would seem to confirm Cuellar's suspicions.
The newspaper reported that a "white Homeland Security bus" stopped at a public terminal in the town of McAllen and opened its doors "to disgorge a group of about 20 immigrants from Central and South America."
"A father carried a sleeping 9-month-old with curly black hair. A mother steered two toddlers toward the terminal," the Chronicle reported.
"'They just left us here," said Norma Navarro, of El Salvador, as the government bus pulled away from the terminal. 'We have nothing.'
"But each person on the bus had at least one critical possession: a packet of U.S. government-issued documents ordering them to report to immigration officials within 15 days of landing at their new destination, and to appear in immigration court on a set date," the Chronicle account continued.
"The paperwork confers no legal status, but many immigrants see it as a pass to a new life. Edilberto Lanza Mejia, a 26-year-old from Honduras holding his infant son, described it like this: 'It is a permit to enter the United States.'"
Cuellar described what he thinks happens next.
"After they're housed for a while, they're given a piece of paper and they're asked to show up in 90 days or so, and I can tell you that probably 90 percent of them are not going to be showing up," the congressman said, CBS Dallas-Fort Worth reports.
"Because after they traveled thousands of miles, paid a lot of money [to smugglers], went through a very dangerous situation — they're not going to turn themselves in."
Groups on the U.S. side of the border sympathetic to the plight of the illegals are calling on the federal government to provide emergency aid.
The Rio South Texas Economic Council
, which is affiliated with the Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce, issued a news release
Monday calling on the federal government to "increase humanitarian resources on the border" to deal with the floodtide.
"The people we see crossing now appear to be refugees from Central America and Mexico and sound like they are running for their lives," Eduardo Campirano, chairman of the Rio South Texas Economic Council, says in the release.
"The fact that such a high percentage of them are children and are not from Mexico is an indication there is a critical situation that requires an immediate response."
The release also quotes Julian Alvarez of the Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce's "RGV Partnership" organization, who says, "Our communities are thriving with jobs and prosperity while our neighbors are suffering from problems that are so great that children as young as 3 years old have their lives at great risk trying to get into America. We hope the governments of our countries can work together to resolve these problems very quickly."
As all of this occurs, border agents are finding themselves paralyzed by paperwork.
"We are being overwhelmed," Border Patrol Agent Christopher Cabrera told the Chronicle.
"We have groups of 70, 80, 90 people just walking up and turning themselves in. They're finding the first agent and saying take me in and let me have my walking papers.
"If we don't get some help soon, it's going to be disastrous."
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