Updated May 1, 2012 - 6:55 am
Unaccompanied minor immigrants cause issue for feds
PHOENIX -- More unaccompanied children than ever are crossing the border illegally from Mexico and putting enormous pressure on groups trying to help them.
Lydia Guzman with Somos America said parents living here illegally send for their children and put them in the hands of dangerous smugglers and, in many cases, it ends tragically.
"I had a young man who was 14, who was traveling from Guatemala and the last time the mother heard from him was when he was crossing the border in the middle of the summer and he never made it out of the desert," she said.
Even if the child makes it across the border, there are numerous other issues that they face.
"At some point, [smugglers] may turn around and try to extort the family for more money, so it puts the family in a very vulnerable situation," said Guzman.
If the deal goe wrong and the children vanish, most parents are too afraid to notify local law enforcement and instead turn to groups such as Somos America for help.
"We start mobilizing folks to try and find out if they were detained, maybe they're still stuck somewhere in a drop house and they're a victim of some sort of extortion or kidnapping ransom," said Guzman.
If the child is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they are sent to a group home full of other children whose parents attempted to send them to America.
"There's one here in Phoenix in an undisclosed location -- for their safety -- they're not in the adult population," said Guzman.
"They're here. They're housed until they work with the consulates to see if they can find the family members."