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Young Migrants From Central America Risk Life and Limb to Get to US

  • Brian Padden

For the tens of thousands of young people from Central America trying to enter the U.S. illegally, the trip north is fraught with hardship and danger.

Ricardo Reyes, a 16-year-old Honduran student, lost his leg trying to get into the United States.

And eight-year-old Jonquil Ramirez Ramos went missing after he was sent to America.

Two cautionary tales about the dangers young migrants face as they make the arduous month-long trip through Mexico to the U.S. border, often short on food and always hiding from authorities.

Reyes traveled alone, hoping to make money for his family once he arrived in America.

“I went because I wanted to help my father, get them out of poverty, wanted to fix the house," said Reyes.

Ricardo Reyes says the accident happened when he tried to hop onto a moving freight train in Mexico. The train known as the “beast” is used by thousands of immigrants. He lost his balance, fell and his leg got caught under the rail wheels.

Ramos’ family paid a smuggler $5,000 to reunite the eight year-old with his mother living as an undocumented worker in Miami. His aunt Yamileth Ramirez says they have not heard from him since.

“It's scary that they would go alone because sometimes, like what we are going through right now, we wonder if he is there, or not, or what they could have done to him. We don't know anything," said Ramirez.

Ricardo’s mother, Inginia Reyes Martinez, was at first devastated by the news of his accident but now takes some comfort in knowing that her son is home again.

“But I ask him to keep going, that he has to keep going and he doesn't have to feel [different]. He has to feel like the rest and be like he was before," said Martinez.

Reyes says he hopes others learn from his experience.

“I would recommend that they don't go because of the way the road is. It's not very easy. They get you down on the train or immigration chases you. No, the road is not easy," he said.

Looking back he says trying to sneak into America is not worth the risk of being injured, robbed, arrested or worse.