Unaccompanied immigrant children numbers grow on LI

Thousands of undocumented immigrant children are living on Long Island, and the number continues to grow. According to the US Department of Health and Human

Thousands of undocumented immigrant children are living on Long Island, and the number continues to grow as more children and teens make the dangerous journey alone.

Thousands of undocumented immigrant children are living on Long Island, and the number continues to grow as more children and teens make the dangerous journey alone. (4/7/15)

WYANDANCH - Thousands of undocumented immigrant children are living on Long Island, and the number continues to grow as more children and teens make the dangerous journey alone.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 3,000 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors on Long Island in 2014, including about 1,600 in Suffolk County and 1,446 in Nassau. More children were released on Long Island than to the rest of New York state combined.

Victoria Campos, an immigration attorney based in Huntington Station, says dangerous conditions in countries like El Salvador and Honduras leave the children and their families with little choice.

"There's a big problem in Central America with the gangs," Campos says. "So most of the kids can't even go to school, because they are afraid they will be recruited, or they are in danger of being kidnapped, and in the case of girls and boys, raped."

News 12 Long Island spoke with a pair of teen sisters who made the dangerous journey from El Salvador all the way to Wyandanch. Madelyn Bermudez, 15, and her 14-year-old sister Elsy now seem like typical Long Island children: smart, athletic, creative girls who go to class and do their homework. But they arrived here illegally two years ago, and they left behind a life that wasn't easy.

The girls' mother was not around, and News 12 is told that their father was murdered. They were left in the care of an abusive aunt, who eventually sent them away to the United States in the hands of strangers.

The girls’ trip was grueling, both physically and emotionally. They say they were very scared, especially as they walked dark streets at night. Sometimes they did not have enough to eat.

Journeys like theirs are not uncommon. Thousands of unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, and customs agents eventually place them with relatives, many of whom live on Long Island.

The Bermudez girls have been reunited here with their mother, Maria, whom they had not seen since they were toddlers. Maria told News 12 that she left to escape a violent ex-husband who battered her for years. She says she always wanted to bring the girls north, but without a legal avenue to do so, she left them with her sister. The girls say they are happy to be in the country with their mom.

In Part Two of this special series, News 12 examines the effect of unaccompanied children on local school districts. Watch tomorrow, only on News 12 Long Island.

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Top 5 Must See

The video was posted on YouTube by professional 1 Police: 4 men arrested in Splish Splash BMX video
According to the Chronicle, the photos were emailed 2 Hofstra University fraternity Sigma Pi accused of hazing ritual
Stoker Olukotun Williams was sentenced to life in 3 Bay Shore man gets life in prison for murdering prostitute
The four men stole a wreath and burned 4 Police: Men steal wreath, burn flags outside Babylon pet shop
Riverhead Police arrested 4 men for criminal trespassing 5 Police: 4 in Splish Splash BMX video arrested

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Features

Need help this holiday season? We've got you Holiday Help Series

Need a gift idea? Perhaps you need a fun idea to do with the kids?

Each week a different shelter visits News 12 Dog Day Fridays Series

Each week a different shelter visits News 12 Long Island with pets up for adoption.

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.

LOGIN SUBSCRIBE