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DIGGING DEEPER: Crisis at the border

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TUCSON (KVOA) - On Monday, a delegation from Washington toured the U.S.- Mexico border in El Paso.

The National Border Patrol Council was also there, representing Border Patrol agents.

They discussed the most recent surge of unaccompanied minors along with people from other countries seeking asylum.

Art Del Cueto, vice-president of the National Border Patrol Council was there. He said, "There is no debate as to whether or not this is a crisis. People are coming into the Tucson sector in record numbers."

He added, "They're (agents) overwhelmed at this point I know there's too many individuals concerned whether you want to call it a crisis or not call it a crisis, we're beyond that."

He said the Tucson sector is number one in the country with "got-aways". Those are people who weren't apprehended, that number is 40,000 so far this year.

Del Cueto said, "That's an entire city coming through."

In contrast, those who were apprehended… unaccompanied minors who ranged in age from 2 to 17.

He said it's heartbreaking to see the young children but even more so the parents who are leaving their children at the border.

"Here we have individuals who are turning over their kids to criminals, to drug smuggling organizations to potential sex traffickers where are those parents?"

In Pima County, some of those children are temporarily housed by non-profit organizations.

Board of supervisor Adelita Grijalva told the Digging Deeper Team, "We have quite a collection of volunteers at different nonprofit organizations to ensure that they are not handing off a child to anyone other than family or someone safe."

She said most of the children are kept for two days. So, far they've been able to accommodate the unaccompanied minors ."I think we have the capacity to be able to reunite some families and with the new administration the hope is that the push from the federal government is going to be a more humane system."

Grijalva said they are preparing for the additional influx of people and she knows it will be challenging but this is an issue that is facing all border communities.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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