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‘Flee or Die' Violence Drives Central American Children to the US Border by the Millions

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Two weeks ago, Karla arrived at the Texas border with her two very young children, her mother, and three siblings under the age of 15. It had taken the family a month to make the 1,500 mile journey from their home in northern Honduras, travelling by bus through Guatemala and Mexico. They had sold everything they owned to pay a network of people smugglers who bribed the way clear through checkpoints along the route.

Karla headed north, partly because she had heard the US had begun allowing children to enter legally. This is what the smugglers were saying, and the family knew others who had safely made it across the frontier.

But the main motive for the journey was fear: Karla wanted to get beyond the reach of her father and his contacts in the street gangs that have turned Honduras into the country with the highest murder rate in the world.

Karla says her father was seeking revenge after he was convicted of raping her as a child and sent to prison. He had already hired a gunman to kill her older brother who fled illegally to the US.

When the gruelling journey eventually brought them to the banks of the Rio Bravo, Karla thought the family's nightmare was finally over. But after putting themselves in the care of a US customs agent, a new one began.

Instead of being taken to a detention centre in Texas for processing, they were sent straight back to Mexican immigration control to be sent home.

"They didn't even let us speak," said Karla, who is now staying at a spartan facility in San Pedro Sula, the coastal city that is receiving floods of migrants deported from Mexico. "We are back where we started and I don't know what to do. We haven't got a dollar between us."

The mirage of an open door on the southern US border has triggered a political storm in Washington - and helped fuel an unprecedented humanitarian crisis on America's doorstep.   

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