The crisis at the U.S. border has intensified in the last few months, and the debate about what to do rages from the federal government to the streets of Murrieta, California. Yet for some of the families crossing the treacherous Rio Grande River and other points of entry into the U.S., the untenable situations in their home countries have given them no choice.
"The Maras (Salva Maratruchas gang) have taken over our town. If we don't leave they will kill us," said Karen Rivera. She had first sent her two boys, only 7 and 9 years old, on the perilous trip with a relative. Rivera has since been reunited with her children in the U.S.
For other mothers, it is about the desperate economic situation in their towns. Among many crossers, there is a misguided belief that those traveling with children will be allowed to stay and be granted legal status once on U.S. soil. The promise of safety and the security they crave is enough to turn a blind eye to any doubts.
"They told me that if I came here with my daughter, I would be granted residency," said Alba Hernandez.
Many women and children are willing to do anything for a better life and the American dream. Take Maritza Rivera, who said she fled Honduras with her two young children.
"During our crossing of the Rio Guatemala we almost drowned. Our boat capsized and filled with water," she said. "I was very frightened and thought, 'My God, I brought all my kids this way for them to drown here?'"