More than 13,000 migrant children in U.S. custody

CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal embeds with law enforcement along the Mexico border, where a surge of unaccompanied migrant children are crossing into the U.S.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: Good evening, and thank you for joining us. We're going to begin with a humanitarian crisis on the southern border that is growing larger and more dire by the day. Tonight, we have got the stunning new numbers. Sources tell CBS News more than 13,000 migrant children who entered the country without their parents are now in US custody.

The government says even more adults are being turned back every day. The Secretary of Homeland Security admitting today that so many people are now crossing the border, his department is on pace to stop more migrants than in the past 20 years. And with so many children, including toddlers, now flooding into the country, CBS News has learned the Biden administration is running out of space to house them and people to process their claims.

Now, President Biden said today he has no plans to visit the border right now, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says, while the situation is difficult, his department is tackling it. But critics of Mr. Biden, including Republicans in Congress, are blaming the president tonight for rolling back the strict border policies of the Trump administration.

We've got a lot of new reporting on this, along with some important headlines on two coronavirus vaccines. Our team is standing by. CBS's Miyera Villarreal is going to lead off our coverage tonight from the southern border in Texas. Good evening, Miyera.

MIYERA VILLARREAL: Good evening, Norah. Right now, CBS has learned that unaccompanied minors, on average, are being held in facilities like this one for 120 hours. That breaks down to five days and well over what the law allows of 72 hours. The Biden administration is calling this a challenge, but local law enforcement officers that we embedded with say this is an absolute crisis.

Desperation and frustration growing as groups flow into the US. Deputy Ruben Salinas handles his regular duties during the day and patrols the banks of the Rio Grande River at night.

RUBEN SALINAS: We average about-- the most is about 300.

MIYERA VILLARREAL: An historic number of migrants crossing into the US illegally, created an overwhelming need for more help in the Rio Grande Valley.

RUBEN SALINAS: Children that are unaccompanied, they usually range from 7 to 13. And the smallest one is about seven, and he was by himself.

MIYERA VILLARREAL: [SPEAKING SPANISH] The first group we find during our embed with Deputy Salinas and Sergeant Roger Rich is small.

- [SPEAKING SPANISH]

MIYERA VILLARREAL: [INAUDIBLE] is from Honduras and traveling with her five-year-old son, Derek, who quickly tells me he hid his money in his shoes beneath two pairs of socks to keep it from getting wet. The two hope to live with family in Florida while the request for asylum is processed.

RUBEN SALINAS: Along this river here, they're pretty steep banks.

MIYERA VILLARREAL: Constables don't have the authority to detain anyone. Instead, they direct them down the road to this Border Patrol staging area. Some migrants are processed here outside under a bridge and given foil blankets while they wait. This group of unaccompanied teenage boys tells us they just crossed the river and there's more people coming.

RUBEN SALINAS: [SPEAKING SPANISH]

MIYERA VILLARREAL: More than two dozen are in this group. It's dark, they're wet, and there are a lot of young children clinging to their parents. But there are also several kids by themselves.

RUBEN SALINAS: Bolivia-- he's by himself.

MIYERA VILLARREAL: Towards the back of the group is a 10-year-old boy traveling alone. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

- [SPEAKING SPANISH]

MIYERA VILLARREAL: An aunt, yeah? [INAUDIBLE] Rosales from Honduras, searching for a glimmer of hope in the darkness.

NORAH O'DONNELL: And Miyera is back with us from the southern border. So Miyera, I know they keep people like in those tents behind you. But then what happens to those children?

MIYERA VILLARREAL: So a lot of those will get processed, like you said, at a tent here, or sometimes underneath the bridge, like you saw in our story. From there, they will end up going to shelters, like the one that is opening up in Dallas tomorrow. That's when another federal agency will take over and start looking for any family members or maybe guardian sponsors who can take the child in while they continue to fight through their asylum case in the US. Norah?

NORAH O'DONNELL: All right. Miyera Villarreal, with all those new numbers tonight, thank you.