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More than 45,000 children traveling alone from Central America have been detained at the U.S. border with Mexico. That's just in the past eight months. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says by year's end, that number could double. Many of the children are fleeing poverty and gang violence in their countries. Others say they've heard the U.S. has allowed minors a chance to stay in the country. NPR's Carrie Kahn met three Central American children as they made their way through Mexico, and she brings us their story.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: If you're trying to get across Mexico and you don't have any money, the best way is to jump on a freight train. Several train lines pass through the dusty central Mexican town of Huehuetoca at full speed. But if you walk about two miles down the tracks, there's a large bend. There, the trains slow down to take the curve and give an opportunity for migrants to jump on board. I'm walking on the train tracks right now with Adrian Alberto Rodriguez Garcia (ph). He's an aid worker who feeds the migrants as they wait for the train going north.
ALBERTO RODRIGUEZ GARCIA: (Spanish spoken).
KAHN: And he tells me it was about a year ago that he began seeing young kids traveling alone without their parents. After a long hot walk, we arrive at the bend. And under a lush pepper tree, group of migrants wait for the train. Most are in their twenties and thirties, and there are three kids - two 17-year-olds and a 15-year-old, Marlon (ph), from all Salvador. He says he left his home exactly 32 days ago. It takes Marlon a few tries to find his words. He's shy and awkward and looks much younger than 15.
MARLON: (Spanish spoken).
KAHN: Then, in a burst, he says, you can't go out in the streets where I live. You can't open a business. You can't do anything. The gangs control everything. If I didn't join the gang, they would kill me or my family. I left. Marlon says his grandmother lives in Los Angeles. And when he gets to the border, he heard, if he turns himself in, they'll let him go to her. Sitting next to Marlon is Marco Antonio (ph), who just turned 17, but also looks barely a teen. He's also headed to Los Angeles and, too, has heard the U.S. is letting in kids. Where he's from in Honduras, he says, there's nothing but poverty and crime.
MARCO ANTONIO: (Spanish spoken).
KAHN: And if you do find work, at most, he says, you get about three dollars a day. Each of the kids seem to have found an older man in the group to watch out for them. Freddie (ph), who was also 17, from Guatemala, says he was traveling with an older relative, but that man decided to turn back at the border with Mexico.
FREDDIE: (Spanish spoken).
KAHN: He says, we all help each other out. If I find food, I share, and the others get some, give it to me. Freddie says he left Guatemala on Mother's Day. Quickly, his eyes filled with tears, and he can't talk. Then, he says he really get to New York and work, so they can send money to his mom. It's difficult to confirm the boys' stories, but they sound similar to those reported by other children apprehended at the U.S. border. All three boys say they have faith that God will get them to the U.S. But this train that soon comes by unfortunately is going the wrong direction. They'll have to wait another day to continue their trip north. Carrie Kahn, NPR News.
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