WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warns that some parents of Central American children attempting to cross the U.S. border illegally already know of the risks, noting that some girls are given birth control “in case they’re raped along the way.”
Speaking with the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, Johnson joined the Obama administration in attempting to warn Central American parents to stop sending their children on the dangerous route to entering the U.S. illegally. But Johnson said that he’s met with children and heard stories that some parents are very aware of the risks along the route.
“I’ve met with enough of these kids now, including a 15-year-old in Nogales two weeks ago, who was three months pregnant, to have a real sense for what these kids go through,” Johnson told Congress. “We’ve heard about how before they leave Central America, some of these kids’ parents actually will give them birth control in case they’re raped along the way.”
Adding to the horror stories often associated with drug cartel “coyotes,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that some of the unaccompanied minors were raped by cartel members.
“When they initially arrived in the United States, they were very quiet and they didn’t open up,” said Durbin of a pair of immigrant siblings named Samuel and Emily. “They were clearly victims of trauma. After two months of care and custody of these 3- and 6-year-old children by HHS, Emily revealed that both children had been raped by members of a local drug cartel.”
Durbin continued: “I think about those children when I think about this debate. Are they the exception? God, I pray they are. But I’m afraid there are many more with similar stories.”
Durbin added that President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency spending request to help deal with the immigration influx does not include funds “to provide the kind of representation and advocacy to protect these kids.”
The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended more than 57,000 children at the Mexican border since last October, with a majority of the unaccompanied minors travelling from Central American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Recent reports include stories of “small, lifeless bodies” washing up along the banks of the Rio Grande of children who did not survive the dangerous attempt to cross into the U.S.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski said that Border Patrol agents are discovering immigrant minors who are “dehydrated, malnourished, scared” and often abused by human traffickers who provide the children false promises of transport.
The White House is meeting resistance from both sides of the aisle over its border money request.