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More Children Are Attempting To Cross The Border By Themselves

Credit: Flickr Public Domain

Credit: Flickr Public Domain

The number of kids attempting the dangerous journey by themselves has tripled.
Enedelia Arriaga* set off on the six-week journey along the migrant trail at 14, leaving her parents and nine younger siblings behind in the highlands of rural Guatemala. She rode atop Mexican freight trains, from Chiapas in the south to Tamaulipas in the north. She fought off a would-be rapist with the help of the only other woman in the group, who screamed, “She’s a baby!” She walked through the South Texas wilderness for four days, trying to steer clear of the assailant, who was still with the group, and of the human remains they encountered along the way.
They were led by a coyote, and her 16-year-old cousin was with her, but other than that Arriaga was on her own. “When I left my country,” she told me, “I said, ‘I know God is going to be with me, and everything is going to be okay.'”
Eventually Arriaga made it to San Francisco, where her 16-year-old brother lived. They stayed with an aunt, but soon moved out, not wanting to burden her. Arriaga went to work to pay back another aunt in Alabama who’d handled her smuggling fee, first as a babysitter and later on the crews that clean huge hillside homes with views of the bay. She usually got bathroom duty. Hardly anyone asked why she wasn’t in school.
Her journey is not unusual. Over the past five years, the number of undocumented children—mostly teens, but some as young as five—apprehended crossing the border without parents or guardians has tripled, rising from 8,041 in fiscal year 2008 to 24,481 in fiscal 2012, with a 52 percent increase from 2011 to 2012 alone. Countless others, including Arriaga, made the trip without getting caught.
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