Early on Tuesday in Texas, Border Patrol found a toddler alone in a field with his name and phone numbers written on his shoes, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) said in post on Twitter that included pictures of the boy. The 3-year-old was thought to have been traveling with a group of migrants who ran when they heard agents, CBP said in its tweet.
Where the toddler is now, or where he spent the night after being found is not exactly clear, The Washington Post reported. Bustle has reached out to Customs and Border Patrol for comment. NBC News reported that the boy was found in the Rio Grande Valley near Brownsville, Texas, and that he had been transported to a border station.
As of Tuesday night, officials had not reached his parents, according to NBC News. NBC News reported that CBP was transferring the boy into the care of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the meantime. Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Rodolfo Karisch told NBC News that the boy was in good spirits and had watched movies at the border station.
Irma Chapa, the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley Sector communications director, told CNN about how the boy was found. She said that agents came across a group of migrants who had crossed the Rio Grande, who then scattered and ran back to the river. Agents reportedly then heard the boy crying.
"Agents searched and located a sobbing toddler abandoned in the middle of the field," Chapa told CNN. "The child appeared to be healthy and unharmed."
Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Rodolfo Karisch told CNN it's not the first time this has happened and "unfortunately it won't be the last," either. "This incident highlights the dangers faced by migrants at the hands of smugglers," Karisch went on to tell the cable news network. "Children, in particular, are extremely vulnerable, not only to exploitation but also to the elements of the environment."
Once they are in U.S. government custody, the situation can remain grim, per recent reporting. CBP is supposed to release children traveling alone within 72 hours by law, the ACLU says. But, officials told The Washington Post in March that they are exceeding that amount of time because HHS can't find enough shelters and doesn't have anywhere else to put them.
The Post reported that on March 20, some 1,350 children were being held in cells without a parent — and 20% were 12 years old or younger.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told CNN at the end of March that some 40,000 children entered CBP's custody last month. He told CNN that a "stark and increasing shift to more vulnerable populations" combined with "overwhelming numbers" meant there was not capacity in the system to detain so many families and children. Some 9,000 of those were traveling without parents, NBC News reported on Tuesday.
Another recent incident of a very young child entering the country seemingly alone was in March, when a 2-year-old entered near El Paso, The Post reported earlier in March. According to the article, some 700 people were processed in one night there, including big groups as large as about 250 people. Who the boy crossed with was not exactly clear, the paper reported.
CBP would like any information about the boy found Tuesday that could help lead him back to his parents, NBC News reported.