A 7-year-old Honduran girl who crossed the U.S. border on her own has been reunited with her mom, federal authorities say.
The reunion happened over the weekend and the girl, Aimee, has been immunized and is healthy, an official at the Administration for Children and Families said in an email to NBC News.
Aimee was found near Mission, Texas, earlier this month among a group of Honduran women and children who had traveled for 13 days before crossing the Rio Grande. She was traveling without relatives, but the group had been protecting her on the journey across Mexico to the border.
When Border Patrol agents asked where she was going, she nervously told them: “Los Estados” — the United States. She rummaged through her meager belongings, looking desperately for a folded piece of paper, then remembered the document was in her jeans pocket. On the back was written the place she was supposed to travel to: North Carolina.
Aimee is one of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have poured across the border into Texas and the Southwestern states in recent months — more than 57,000 apprehended by authorities since October, according to numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The flood of kids has caused a nightmare for federal authorities struggling to house and feed them, along with a political crisis for the Obama administration. Some states and cities have pushed back at attempts to move children to federal facilities there.
And many of those children are very young.
A Pew Research report released this week says an increasing proportion of immigrant children caught crossing the U.S. border without a parent or guardian are, like Aimee, 12 or younger. Older children, ages 13-17, still make up the vast majority of immigrant kids, but that majority dropped from 90 percent to 84 percent between fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the report says.
The children are coming to the U.S. for a variety of reasons, chief among them crushing poverty and violence in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Some of them have made the trip mistakenly believing that changes in U.S. law would allow entry by unaccompanied children and mothers with children.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said last week that federal authorities were trying to get the word out that these kids and moms don’t “qualify for any form of humanitarian relief.”
"The message that I and others have been sending is that our borders are not open to illegal migration," he said. "We will send you back."
But still they come.
About 350 were arriving in Texas each day in June, and although that number has now dropped to 150 in the heat of summer, it’s unclear whether the respite is anything more than a pause.