By Andy Valencia

Stop off at a rest stop along almost any major highway, and you’ll see signs – in English and Spanish – telling trafficking victims how to ask for help. Look at all the vehicles coming and going at a highway rest stop. How often is it one with a few children, minded by men with cold, careful eyes?

Consider 600,000 unaccompanied minors smuggled across our border each year. A larger and more vulnerable population is hard to imagine. How many land in desperately bad situations? Only a very few try to argue that this is minor problem.

This is not a political issue; it happens in Red states and Blue ones. It happens to places dominated by Republicans and by Democrats. It happens in wealthy states and in poor ones. But it is the poor and vulnerable who bear the brunt of this plague – an evil tax paid with lives, including children.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation National Crime Information Center system tracks active federal law enforcement cases, along with cases where a local agency chooses to enter their case into the FBI NCIC system. In 2021 (the latest reported year), 337,195 reports on missing children were added. The year closed with 30,400 of those reports still open.

For those taking cold comfort that “only” 30,400 cases are unsolved at year’s end, remember that these are cases where somebody like a parent went to law enforcement, went through all the institutional barriers to get a police report into the system, and then put an entry into the FBI’s NCIC system. What about those who dare not contact law enforcement?

In October 2021, the New York Times noted an influx of 1.7 million illegal border crossings, including 479,000 families and 147,000 unaccompanied children. The numbers race ahead of the reporting; in December 2022, border patrol reported 250,000 encounters in that single month. These are the ones encountered, which is to say, the ones who didn’t elude the US border agents. In another 2021 article, they note that the number of unaccompanied minors at the border are growing, and approaching 20,000 per month.

How many did elude the authorities? By definition, this is an unknown number, but various experts estimate that, for each encountered crosser, there’s one, two, three, or more who elude the US agents. There is no reputable authority claiming it’s a small number. We might really have 50,000 minors, alone, coming through our border. Each month.

Even for those children who are caught and enter the federal system, there are serious doubts about their long term safety. Bloomberg has documented cases where the children disappear without a trace. According to Edwin Mora: “It’s not uncommon for federal officials to lose contact with unaccompanied children after their release from government custody.”

Criminal cartels in Mexico have become major players in human smuggling, and children provide a terribly convenient source of victims. Since the cartels are de facto owners of illegal immigration across wide expanses of the US border with Mexico, they (“coyotes”) could easily bring children across and route them into captivity instead of the promised brighter future. How would we know? Nobody’s going to enter it into an FBI system.

A resource for these victims, projectnorest.org has a “LEAVE PAGE NOW” button floating on the right, so a victim can quickly hide their search for help when they hear their “handler” coming. How often is that button used in earnest? How would we know?

Medics checking a bandaged wound will use their nose, sniffing around the perimeter, to see if it smells of corruption – rotting flesh. In researching this article, I’ve caught that same whiff of corruption. The delegation of our border to cartels, the swarms of children, the lost children reported to our law enforcement, and the untold thousands who dare not use that system. And now, in late 2022, US Customs and Border Patrol has been ordered to not release border patrol statistics on social media, or even to the press. Why? To hide good news?

Consider that crossing number of 600,000 children per year. Stalin famously noted that one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic. These children have become almost a Stalin statistic, but are also an unprecedented tragedy.

So far, talking about this is like talking about bad weather. Everybody agrees it’s terrible – then you turn the page. Before you turn this page, take a moment to imagine these thousands of children, and what fates they’ve encountered. Now, imagine the ways that this situation might be improved. I hope you’ll hold these ideas in your mind as you interact with politicians and others in authority.

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March 7, 2023

About Author

vandys Andy Valencia is a 20+ year islander, tech guy, father, writer