PHOENIX -- A massive influx of undocumented immigrants are fleeing for their lives across Arizona's border.
While only recently news articles have surfaced about large numbers of Central Americans crossing into Arizona, one expert says it's been happening for awhile.
"This has been going for about 18 months or the last two years and the reason that it's just hit the news right now is because of the numbers," Lydia Guzman, National LULAC Immigration Chair, told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR's Mac & Gaydos Wednesday.
LULAC stands for the League of United Latin American Citizens and is the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy group in the U.S.
Guzman said that in the past, a few people here and there would trickle in, making the numbers manageable for community organizations to help them reunite with their family members here in the states.
But another reason it's now a hot topic? A record number of unaccompanied minors are crossing the border.
"A lot of the Latin American countries are suffering from an increase in cartel activity, but what's happening is the cartels are actually taking over a lot of the villages in the Central American countries," Guzman explained. "They're trying to recruit the young men and those that aren't on-board with them, they usually end up disappearing."
In addition to bloodshed, Guzman also said young girls are getting kidnapped or raped or getting forced into sex slavery.
"These folks are fleeing for their lives," Guzman said. "This is more than just a simple immigration situation, where they want to come for economic reasons. These folks are running for their lives; it's a crisis."
A crisis, she added, that the government is aware of.
"We're hoping that the American government and the members of Congress can look at this and reflect and say, 'This is a humanitarian crisis and we need to act on some sort of a protective status,' and hopefully something can be done immediately to protect these people from losing their lives," she said.