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.
First published July 23 2014, 5:26 PM
Mark Potter is an NBC News correspondent based in Miami where he reports for "Nightly News," "TODAY," MSNBC and NBCNews.com. He joined NBC News as a correspondent in 2004.
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During his 40-year journalism career, Potter has reported from all over the United States, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, including Haiti and Cuba. He has also worked in NBC's London and Hong Kong Bureaus, and has reported from China, the South Pacific, the Philippines and Israel. Much of his career was spent with investigative units at both the national and regional levels, and he has reported on topics including politics, narcotics and immigrant smuggling, environmental issues, natural disasters, international conflicts and numerous high-profile court cases.
Among the stories he has covered are the Cuban Mariel boatlift, the Grenada invasion, the arrest and trial of Panama's General Manuel Noriega, the Mexican and Colombian drug wars, the Haitian immigration crisis, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Hezbollah-Israeli war, the 1980's Miami riots, the Theodore Bundy murder trial, the regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, scores of hurricanes, the Armero volcano disaster in Colombia, the Elian Gonzalez legal battle, several Papal trips, the right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo, the U.S. heroin epidemic, the Southwest border security debate and the U.S.-Cuban political opening.
For 15 years prior to working at NBC News, Potter was a correspondent for ABC News, reporting for "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings," "Nightline" and "Good Morning America." He also worked for CNN, where among other duties he served as contributing correspondent for the Emmy-Award winning magazine show, "CNN and Time."
Potter is the recipient of the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award, Robert F. Kennedy Award, an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, National Headliner Awards, the 2011 national Emmy Award for "Mexico: The War Next Door," several national Emmy nominations, and six regional Emmy Awards.
He has often appeared as a guest lecturer in journalism classes at the University of Miami, the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas. His work is also featured in "Square Grouper," a 2011 documentary film about South Florida marijuana smugglers, and in "Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded," a 2014 documentary about drug-related violence in Miami and Colombia.
Potter was graduated from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and then worked for three local television stations in Evansville, Ind., and Miami before joining network news in 1983.