AUSTIN (KXAN) — Local nonprofits say they have started to feel the effect of the many children showing up at the Texas border.
Ashley, Tatiana and Jefferson* risked their lives trying to find their mom who left Honduras 12 years ago looking for a better life. But the four week journey to McAllen, where U.S. Customs officials picked them up, was harder than they imagined.
“We ran out of money,” Ashley said, “then we had to take a risk and ride the train. We had no food. We were hungry.”
“We wanted to be with our mom again,” Tatiana said. “We wanted to feel her love again, we missed her hugs. We hadn’t seen her in 12 years.”
This family represents just one many families trying to escape their country’s violence. The Office of Refugee Resettlement originally estimated 130,000 underage children will cross the border by next year.
“We are gearing up and preparing for an influx in our services,” said Sara Ramirez with the Catholic Charities of Central Texas. They are already getting significantly more requests for legal help than in previous years. “On average I’d say we do about seven or eight cases a year and in this month we’ve had eight specific requests.”
In spite of their hardships, the three teens now living in Austin say the danger was worth it and are already planning their future.
“I just want to study and have a career so I can be someone important in life,” Jefferson said.
But with a two-year backlog, the three are currently awaiting a court hearing to decide their fate.
“I have faith in God that yes, that my children will be able to stay here with me,” said Maria, the children’s mother.
Catholic Charities estimates about 14 percent of the children crossing the border will end up staying in Texas. The rest will end up in one of 20 detention facilities around the country or live with family members outside of Texas.
* Names changed to protect their identity