NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The images of children in detainment centers along the U.S. border are heartbreaking. However, they don't compare to the images many of those children have seen in their home countries or on their journey to a safer life.
“If they don’t join they would execute them right away,” Claudia Avila-Lopez said.
Lopez is a native of Mexico and currently a local social worker. Many of her younger clients have shared heartbreaking stories of family members being executed by gangs and cartels in Central America and Mexico.
“They’re also recruiting children,” Lopez explained. “When they don’t join them, they kill them.”
So many parents take the risk to try and cross the border to save their children.
“When you think about the dangers they’re facing in their countries, what’s worse,” said Lopez.
Beginning in April, until Wednesday, children that made it to the U.S. were separated from their parents and put in detainment centers - a move that could have lasting effects on those young lives.
“These youth, their brains are still developing and this can be detrimental in terms of increasing risks for mental health disorders, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder,” Doctor Mary Lehman Held said.
Held has traveled across Central America and knows many families are simply attempting to save themselves from a fate of crime and murder.
“The murder rates in El Salvador and Honduras are the two highest homicide per capita rates world wide and Guatemala is in the top ten of that list,” she explained.
“This is just the reality that most people are going through in Central America and many people in Mexico,” added Lopez.
You can help by contacting your senators and ask them to consider polices that would allow families to apply for asylum. Right now, asylum is rarely granted to those crossing into the U.S.