Eduardo,* age 10, safely plays at a Save the Children child-friendly space in McAllen, Texas. He fled violence at home, crossing the U.S. border with his mother and sister. Photo Credit: Caroline Trutmann Marconi/Save the Children 2015.

Eduardo,* age 10, safely plays at a Save the Children child-friendly space in McAllen, Texas. He fled violence at home, crossing the U.S. border with his mother and sister. 

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U.S. Border Crisis Emergency

A silent crisis has erupted in Central America and Mexico. At stake is a generation of children. Hundreds of thousands of families have embarked on life-threatening journeys covering tens of thousands of miles and facing unfathomable horrors to reach the United States. Many of them children. And many of them arrive unaccompanied. They have experienced harmful and dangerous events along the way, lured by promises of safety and economic prosperity in the U.S. Many of them were turned away, forced to return to the very lives that they fled in the first place – full of violence and poverty. Our country offices report that those who return are stigmatized and feel hopeless after spending so much ($5,000-$10,000) and failed.

It is our mandate at Save the Children to look at how children can be better protected along the route of migration, at the destination locations and upon their return to the countries of origin. Another critical component of this response strategy is how to prevent migration in the first place, by addressing root causes such as violence, poverty and lack of access to basic services. Through increasing access to basic and vocational education, violence prevention programs and advocacy towards the governments to address the situation, we can improve children’s lives and help stem the flow of migration.

Stories From the Border

Escaping "Black Fridays"

Eduardo,* age 10, safely plays at a Save the Children Child-Friendly Space in McAllen, Texas. He fled violence at home, crossing the U.S. border with his mother and sister. Photo Credit: Caroline Trutmann Marconi / Save the Children

Young Eduardo* sadly left his home in El Salvador because home had become a far too dangerous place – especially on what were known as “Black Fridays,” when violent gangs raged throughout the city. Eduardo hopes his life will be better now.

In Eduardo's* own words:

I'm 10 years old, and I'm from the city of San Salvador, El Salvador. I came with my mother and my 15-year-old sister. We left our home because it was dangerous. I was in 4th grade at school, but on Fridays, I had stopped going because they were called “Black Fridays.” That's because almost every Friday gangs would break into homes. They also came into my school one day.

The day I left home, I was very sad because I had to say good-bye to all my friends and the people I love, but I was happy at the same time – because I was going to meet my father.

We left on a Thursday, but I'm not sure how many days ago it was, because so much has happened, that I lost count of the days…

The day we crossed the border, we waited in an abandoned brick house until a big white van came to pick us up. Three men prepared an inflatable raft, and they took a group of us – including a pregnant woman, a mother with children and some other children on their own – to the other side of the river. We saw alligators in the water and a helicopter flying overhead.

When we got to the other side, the men told us to wait by the river, but no one came to pick us up. We walked and walked until we reached a road, and then the Border Patrol arrived. The officers took our names and other information, and then they took us to a large building. We were there for a whole week, and I was separated from my mother for about five days. It was hard. There were so many people, I could hardly sleep. Some kids got bullied. Many kids got sick.

We finally left there and came here [to Save the Children's Child-Friendly Space] yesterday. I was very happy when I came here. They gave me good food, and we were able to rest for a while.

My biggest dream is to meet my father. I don't know what I'll say to him. I just want to see him and give him a hug. I'm crying because I'm happy. I think he's going to be proud of me – I only get As at school, and I've mailed him all of the medals I've won.

Tonight, we're leaving for a new city, and I'm going to meet my father. We will be better.

We spoke with Eduardo at our Child-Friendly Space in a McAllen, Texas shelter, where many children and families spend time after their release from U.S. Customs Border Protection facilities. With the increasing numbers of children arriving at the U.S. border fleeing violence and insecurity in Central America, these facilities have become overwhelmed, and officers are doing the best they can under challenging circumstances. With nearly 100 years of experience assisting children and families in crisis around the world, we can help. We're also working closely with government agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Health and Human Services, to support their efforts and ensure these children receive the age-appropriate care and protection they urgently need.

*Names have been changed for the protection of children and their families.


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