EL PASO, Texas – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced Tuesday that a multi-agency investigation had led to the recovery so far of 24 El Paso area children who were missing or runaways.
The joint state and federal investigation that led to the kids being found was undertaken in mid-May, authorities said. All of the missing children recovered in what was dubbed "Operation Lost Souls" were between the ages of 13 and 20.
Four of the 24 children were located outside of the continental U.S. - 3 in Mexico and 1 in Puerto Rico - and were being returned to the U.S. to reunite with family members. The rest of the children were located in states within the U.S.
In addition, authorities said at least one child had been the victim of a sexual assault; officials noted that this recovery effort has prompted additional probes into possible human trafficking and child sexual exploitation following interviews with the kids.
Officials indicated the operation, which includes more than 15 area agencies and non-governmental organizations, remains ongoing as they continue to work through a list of missing children reports from the Borderland.
"This initiative is just one more example of how local, state, and federal law enforcement partners unequivocally work together to fight crime and protect those we serve," Orlando Alanis, regional director for Texas DPS, said at a news conference.
You can watch the entire news conference given by authorities in the video player below.