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Young immigrants seek refuge from crime, poverty, and gangs

In nations that struggle with poverty, crime, and corrupt governments, chilhdren and the young are also victim and prey. Though many are sent home, the United States has seen a marked spike in young immigrants fleeing violence back home. Over the past year, the number of escaping young migrants taken into custody has increased. In some cases, those fleeing conditions back home can be granted refugee status in Miami, Florida and nationwide.

In the 12 months that ended this September, 13,625 children were taken into custody and referred to children's services after seeking refuge in the United States. This is a stark increase from the roughly 6,000 to 8,000 who were taken into custody every year for the 5 previous years. Most of these children come from South America and Central America, including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Children list many perils, including human trafficking, kidnapping, rape and murder, as well as the very crushing threat of poverty. Many Central American children are caught between gang members who threaten to kill those who refuse to join and the police who assume they are already gang-affiliated.

Though the trek from Central America, through Mexico and into the United States is dangerous, most children said that they would take the journey again to escape the dangers in their homeland. In addition to starvation and the elements, children can also risk kidnapping, falling off a freight train, or robbery.

U.S. officials have launched a public awareness campaign in Latin America to dissuade unaccompanied children from making the trip. Still, of those who make it, refugee status and foster care is a preferred alternative to battling dangers at home. Immigrants in the United States will often need legal support to obtain status, a visa, or to protect their rights in the face of deportation. An experienced advocate can review your case and help you achieve your dream of remaining the United States.

Source: MSN, "Poverty, fear of gangs drives young immigrants to the U.S.," Scott Malone and Tim Gaynor, Dec. 21, 2012

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