Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Monday that some of the children flooding across the southern U.S. border are experiencing violence along the way, and that some are being forced by human traffickers to cut off the ears and fingers of other children.

Human smugglers known as coyotes are widely reported to be violent, subjecting people they smuggle to sexual assault or other violence acts. Cruz said coyotes are “vicious, violent murders,” and said coyotes were forcing children to injure others in order to extract more money from the families who were hoping to take delivery of these children.

“We just heard stories of little boys and little girls forced by these drug dealers to cut off the fingers or cut off the ears of other little boys and little girls in order to extort money from their families,” Cruz said in a press conference in Texas.

“And these children are told, if you don’t cut off the fingers or ears of another child, you’ll be shot.”

Cruz spoke after visiting a facility in Texas being used to house unaccompanied minors who had just crossed the border. He spoke with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who reiterated his call on the Obama administration to send Texas more money to help take steps to seal up the southern border.

He said Texas has taken several steps on its own in an effort to tighten up border security, but has not heard from the administration on his request for $30 million in aid.

“The state of Texas through its Department of Public Safety is deploying boots on ground, assets in the air as well as boats on the water to ensure that we’re going to do a better job of securing our border, do a better job of going after the cartels that are threatening the health and safety of the people in this state,” Abbott said. “But this does not come free.”

Republicans have blasted the Obama administration for indicating to South America that illegal immigrants would not be turned away, and would instead be granted amnesty if they made it across the border. Cruz said 90,000 unaccompanied children are expected to cross the border this year, and said it could expand to 145,000 in 2015 unless the administration makes it clear that amnesty will not be granted.

“All of that is the direct consequence of President Obama’s lawlessness,” he said.

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