MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican immigration authorities said Wednesday they found a 3-year-old Honduran boy apparently wandering alone in an area near the Rio Grande. Authorities had estimated his age at 4, but found out he was younger when his father showed up to claim him.
The incident began when a government helicopter detected a group of seven children and three women hiding in bushes near the river, according to the National Immigration Institute.
The three women were traveling with their seven children in the area near the border city of Reynosa, but the boy was not related to any of them and was apparently unaccompanied.
The boy’s father showed up to claim him Wednesday. The father said he left his son and ran to hide from the immigration agents.
The institute said when the boy saw his father, he asked him why he had abandoned him.
The institute said that through March 25, 4,440 underage migrants had been found in Mexico so far this year. It did not say how many were unaccompanied, though adults often travel through Mexico with minors and leave them only upon reaching the border.
“Migrants have told federal immigration agents that ‘the guides’ suggest they travel with children, because it is easier to get into the United States,” the institute said.
In March, a 7-year-old Honduran girl appeared alone at the U.S. border. She said her father had traveled with her by bus across Mexico, and then he went back to their homeland — but not before he placed her in the hands of a young man who was to help her cross the river into Texas. It was not clear what happened to the man who helped her cross.
The increase in child migrants represents a dilemma for the fledgling administration of President Joe Biden as it attempts to restore an orderly asylum system. Nearly 9,500 migrant children arrived at the U.S. border in February, up 60% from a month earlier.