The southern border wall is un-American

The difficult fate of refugee children on the US border

Twelve-year-old from Guatemala reports that he fled to the USA

They are fleeing poverty, violence and unemployment: More and more unaccompanied underage refugees are crossing the US border illegally. Since President Joe Biden took office, the authorities have wanted to be better with young people


Thousands of migrants arrive at the US southern border every day, many of them unaccompanied children. The risks for the boys and girls are enormous.

A border wall. Smugglers. Little children dropped into US territory in the dark. A blurred video released by US authorities on Wednesday reveals the dangers for migrant children on the country's southern border in a matter of seconds. Only the white outlines of the people can be seen in the dramatic scenes.

For example, a man near Santa Teresa in the US state of New Mexico lets a toddler down on the other side of a barrier more than four meters high. He holds the little girl by one arm and then lets go. The girl lands on her feet and then falls face down on the ground. The smuggler does the same with another, slightly larger child, who also first lands on his feet and then on his bottom. Then the smuggler and another man run off into the Mexican desert.

The simple scene recorded by a remote camera is an extreme case. But it says a lot about the dramas that are playing out at the border against the backdrop of an increasing number of migrants arriving, including many children. There is great despair behind this: a family that exposes their children to such risk in the hope of a better future for them. Added to this is the callousness of the smugglers who treat children like rag dolls.

The setting is a cordon that so many have fought for - for some a symbol of American strength, for others a completely un-American phenomenon. Despite its height, the fence is relatively easy to negotiate.

Is there a reform of immigration law coming?

In the eyes of immigration advocates, scenes like the one on the video underscore the need to reform immigration law. They call for more focus to be placed on family reunification and for legal immigration to be made easier. Opponents, on the other hand, see such images as confirmation that the rule of law in the USA is not being respected.

Immigration policy reform should not even be considered while such things are happening, they claim. And Americans of all political stripes are likely to debate the circumstances that can induce parents to act in this way.

Meanwhile, thousands of migrants from Mexico, Central America and countries further south arrive at the US-Mexico border every day. Many are fleeing violence or other hardships in their homeland. Others just hope for a better livelihood. They arrive by boat, wade on foot through the Rio Grande River in Texas, or arrive by land in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Many children travel alone. In February, the border authorities counted more than 9,000 unaccompanied boys and girls, more than ever since May 2019. At that time, 11,000 children had come to the border without parents.

Children are allowed to stay in the United States

Unlike their fathers and mothers in many situations, all unaccompanied minors are allowed to stay in the United States. This has led many parents to send their children on their own to America or just to accompany them to the border. Most girls and boys end up at least temporarily in reception centers, which are currently very overcrowded.

According to the border authorities, the children on the video are two sisters aged three and five from Ecuador. They were found in good health, taken to a hospital and examined. On Thursday they were still in a temporary accommodation facility of the Border Guard before they were to be assigned a permanent place. The mother of the girls is in the US and the authorities are in contact with her, as a spokesman for the authorities told the AP on Thursday.

Many of the children arriving alone have relatives in the United States. If they - like probably the two little girls from Ecuador - are too young to remember names or telephone numbers, some of them have contact information on paper with them. Sometimes the data is also written on the children's bodies. Once registered, they are usually placed in custody, often with a parent or close relative.

Unscrupulous smugglers and other risks

Those who send the children on their way hope for this: a reunification with relatives in the USA. But the risks until then are enormous: They result from unaccompanied travel and the actual border crossing, whether through a river, in a crowded vehicle or on foot through the desert and over a wall. As recently as last year, in the Santa Teresa area where the girls were found, a woman was killed falling from a cordon.

And last but not least, unscrupulous smugglers can pose a risk. "People who are considering using the services of people smugglers need to know that people smugglers do not care about the well-being of children," explains border guard spokesman Roger Maier. "It's too dangerous overall." With a view to the girls from Ecuador, he adds: "If that hadn't happened in a monitored area, these children would have been on their own."