Border crisis comes to a head with surge of unaccompanied minors

CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal reports from the front lines of the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Video Transcript

- The number of unaccompanied minors at the US-Mexico border this spring is on track to be the highest ever. CBS News Correspondent Mireya Villarreal has been covering the story from both sides of the border. We asked her to share what she's been seeing.

MIREYA VILLARREAL: Every day, they see between 200 and 300 people-- every day. As a journalist, you're taught to just report the facts, but riding in the back of a pickup truck along the banks of the Rio Grande River provides perspective most people don't usually get.

- [SPEAKING SPANISH]

MIREYA VILLARREAL: When you see a group of migrants--

She's scared? There's more?

- Yeah, there's more coming.

MIREYA VILLARREAL: --filled with children, babies, a 10-year-old boy traveling alone from Honduras--

He said God-- God is watching over him. That's why he's not scared.

--it's hard to contain your emotions as a human. So he's 10, he doesn't know where his dad is, his mom is in Honduras. There's a family up there that's going to kind of watch over him.

Fleeing violence, poor living conditions, and corruption in their home countries, many travel for months to get here. They are hungry, wet, and desperate for a chance to request asylum, a right afforded to everyone-- no matter how they get here-- by a United Nations Treaty in 1951 and US law in 1980.

- Well, this is one of the main crossing areas where they like to cross because it's very secluded out here.

MIREYA VILLARREAL: We embedded with local constables who are helping respond to the latest surge of migrants in South Texas.

- You have to be escorted to film.

MIREYA VILLARREAL: Because federal agencies won't allow media access to shelters or processing facilities--

- Ma'am, but you cannot be here.

MIREYA VILLARREAL: --for decades the border has been used as a pawn to push political agendas forward. But all efforts to find any kind of solution have failed. Local leaders on the ground on both sides of the border are tired of the federal government's inability to fix the system.

This is actually a church school that is now being converted into a shelter for migrants. We have a lot of people from a lot of different areas. One thing they have in common is they want to be able to have their chance to go into the US, ask for asylum.

City governments, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations are once again bearing the brunt of this humanitarian crisis.

- [SPEAKING SPANISH]

MIREYA VILLARREAL: So we just spoke with this family over here. She's six years old. They crossed the river. They'll be asking for asylum, and he said he wasn't scared.

- It is not about whether they should be here or not. They are here. So what we need to do is work together to care for them correctly.

MIREYA VILLARREAL: The Biden administration refuses to call this a crisis. Instead, they see it as a very serious challenge. But the word crisis is defined as a situation that has reached a critical phase--

- [SPEAKING SPANISH]

MIREYA VILLARREAL: --a sentiment we clearly saw from the back of that pickup truck along the banks of the Rio Grande.

- Our Mireya Villarreal reporting from the US-Mexico border.