Local authorities report that few of those have been found in Bee County. But the problem has appeared here.
Just since the beginning of 2014, more than 140,000 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended by authorities, and the strain is having a negative effect on the U.S. Border Patrol.
According to one report, the number of unaccompanied children coming to this country had normally run about 6,000 to 8,000 a year. But that figure was 13,625 in fiscal year 2012 and 24,688 in FY 2013.
This year officials anticipate that the figure will rise to anywhere from 100,000 to 130,000.
Fleeing from violence
Most of those unaccompanied children apparently are coming from homes in Central America. The administration has called in the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist the Border Patrol in housing the children until their parents can be located, and they can be returned to them.
According to information released by the White House, many of the children have fled their homes because of increased violence in the countries from which they came.
But there also is speculation that many of the children are coming to the United States because they have been told that once they get here they will be allowed to stay.
However, White House officials have said that immigration reform legislation recently passed in Washington does not apply to the children.
A significant number of the children have been taken to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
The facility at Lackland can hold up to 1,200 children but, according to federal law, they must be moved from the custody of the Border Patrol to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours of arriving there.
The government is working to open a second facility at a naval base in Ventura County near Oxnard, Calif. But that facility will hold only 600 children.
Police Chief Joe Treviño said his officers have not yet encountered any children who are here without documentation.
But Deputy Lt. Ronnie Jones of the Bee County Sheriff’s Office said a few youngsters have been found in the county.
Jones said the problem first appeared here in 2005, and since then deputies have found about a dozen undocumented children here.
“It’s not a real issue,” Jones said of finding unaccompanied children. Most of those who have crossed the border illegally have been adults. And their numbers are increasing a great deal.
The deputy said he has seen an 8-year-old caught by local authorities. The youngest, he said, was a newborn who was with its mother.
“It’s like the vehicles we’ve seen,” said Deputy Lt. John Davis. They’re stacked in there like cord wood.”
Usually when car or truck loads of illegals are encountered in Bee County, the passengers jump from the vehicle and scatter into the brush. Sometimes deputies or Highway Patrol troopers are able to apprehend all or most of those who have “bailed” out. But some of the passengers often are able to avoid apprehension.
The same thing often happens with the “coyotes,” the smugglers who are paid to bring Mexicans and others across the border and take them to safe houses or to larger cities north of the border where they can find jobs.
The coyotes work in teams, and in the event of a bailout, the drivers contact accomplices in safe cars who will pick them up and get them away from the law officers searching for them.
Deputies have said the coyote teams carry cellular phones, and they are able to maintain communication.
Their passengers often are not as lucky. Some are able to get away, but others eventually are caught or turn themselves into the authorities.
Davis said a recent problem caused by those coming into the country illegally has been vehicle burglaries and thefts.
Coyotes, who usually are driving stolen vehicles, will let their passengers out in parking lots, and the passengers will search the vehicles looking for something they can steal easily. If someone leaves the keys in the vehicle, it will be gone when they return.
“Lock your stuff,” Jones said.