EXCLUSIVE: Migrant child in SWFL caught in international crisis
LEE COUNTY, Fla. – Right now, there are more than 18,000 migrant children in U.S. custody. These are kids who crossed the border without their parents.
The children are coming from Central America, and they are filling up shelters on the border and the government is considering sending them to Florida.
Keeping them is costing the government $62 million a week.
NBC2 talked with one young boy living in Southwest Florida and is caught up in the middle of an international crisis. We’re protecting his identity by not revealing his name, and we will refer to him as Michael.
He was just 14 when he walked from Guatemala to the Texas border and that’s 1,100 miles on foot. He traveled 12 hours a day which took him just 30 days to arrive in the U.S.
Michael said he was on the road and in the woods for a month before he arrived, and he said his family didn’t have their own home. They live with 12 other people in the home including his grandparents.
NBC2’s Dave Elias’ interview with Michael:
Michael: There’s a lot of violence and child abuse. That’s why I decided to come here for a better life for me and my family.
Dave: Did your mother try to stop you from coming here?
Michael: Yes, but she wanted me to come here.
Dave: What about your brothers and sister? Did she want them to come on the journey?
Michael: No, because it was too dangerous of a journey.
It was 1100 miles of unforgiving terrain that the young boy crossed.
Michael: When it was time to go they put us in trucks and they put stuff over us so we can hide so immigration doesn’t see us.
Dave: When you came to the United States, did someone help you and did you owe them for getting you here?
Michael: The coyote is the one who brought me here for $3,000.
It was a debt he paid off after arriving here and working cash in hand for months.
Dave: Do you ever worry they [the coyotes] may come looking for you again?
Michael: No, because I already paid him.
Dave: What did you bring on the journey?
Michael: Only clothes, shoes, and that is it, but we had to run and leave things behind. We only carried water.
Dave: I’m trying to understand how a young 14 year old boy sets out to do this? You didn’t cry, but I would cry.
Michael: I had to find strength in me. I kept getting stronger, and my family was giving me their support and praying for me.
All of the extra money he made was sent home to support the family. He confessed he would like to go back to work except he can’t because he was discovered and placed into Florida’s foster care system.
Michael: I’m not very happy, but I try to be happy.
Currently, he is studying in school, and now, he is waiting for an asylum hearing.
Dave: If they send you back would you try to come back to the U.S.?
Michael: Maybe, yes.
Michael: I feel more comfortable being here.
That’s because in Guatemala he had no hope, and he pointed out that while he may now be in the United States, he said that he feels alone and misses his family. However while he may be lonely here, these comforts he is surrounded by now assure him there is hope.
Michael: I have nothing here. I have nothing over there either.
He said he has nothing to lose but a dream.
Michael: After coming here I started thinking I want to have my own business.
For now, he sits and waits to hear whether he must return, and he isn’t the only unaccompanied child currently living in Southwest Florida.
The state is considering allowing 1,000 more migrant children to temporarily call Florida home until their asylum hearings.
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