by: Maria Guerrero Updated:
DES MOINES, Wash. - An influx of undocumented children have been migrating alone to the United States from Central America this year.
Up to 60,000 people are expected.
Many have been detained by immigration border agents and sent to shelters as their cases are heard.
We set out to find the face of what many call a humanitarian crisis on the border.
KIRO 7’s Maria Guerrero found a teenage boy who is facing deportation after making the journey to Washington State from Honduras.
He wants to explain why he and others are risking it all.
"I would get robbed, they would beat me up," recalls Haxell Herrera.
Life in Honduras got so dangerous the 16-year-old had to leave.
The breaking point: Witnessing as his grandfather was abducted by a gang and beaten. He later died of his injuries.
In February, he set out like tens of thousands of undocumented children have done over the past year.
Haxell said he left because of the violence and had never heard the false rumor of amnesty like other migrants have said.
Haxell crossed into Guatemala and Mexico.
His mother paid a smuggler to drive Haxell to the border by Arizona.
"I had to climb the wall using a ladder and fell on the other side and I ran," he said.
The plan was for him to get caught by immigration since children with family in the U.S. who are migrating alone are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, then to their family in the U.S.
He was sent to a detention facility then to a shelter with dozens of other children migrating alone.
"It got so full they had to move us to a bigger place," he said. “We slept on the floor. I remember the air conditioning was really cold.”
Immigration officials released Haxell to his mother, who flew him to Washington.
"I was happy because I didn't know her, I didn't recognize her," revealed the teenager.
Mother and son hadn't seen each other in person in almost 14 years.
Ela is also undocumented and migrated to Des Moines when Haxell was two years old.
She sent money, hoping he'd live and go to college in Honduras.
But the increasing fear for his safety drove him to leave his home country.
Mother and son were reunited in Des Moines. A new fight began when Haxell said he was traumatized and is in therapy.
He's also enrolled in school and wants to stay.
"Being here can change his life," said Ela Herrera. "If his childhood was sad, at least now it can be peaceful."
Haxell's journey is not over.
He must now convince an immigration judge to let him stay.
The family is meeting with an attorney in hopes of attaining refugee status.