CHELSEA — Why would a devoted mother like Guadalupe allow her 9-year-old daughter to journey alone, among strangers, across three of the world’s most violent places?
Why would she accept the risk that this child could be imprisoned, raped, or killed on her journey north? Why would she encourage her to turn herself in to US border officers, even though that meant risking deportation for the whole family?
For the same reason that tens of thousands of Salvadoran, Honduran, and Guatemalan mothers have made that decision before, and since: She had no choice.
Leaving El Salvador was terrifying. Staying was worse. Her daughter lived in a city overrun with gangs, where boys are slaughtered and girls are raped, where criminals control the lives of poor citizens as completely as any authoritarian regime — running buses, imposing curfews, demanding protection money — and where police can’t stop any of it.
“Her situation was too dangerous,” Guadalupe said, weeping in a conference room at the Chelsea Collaborative a few days ago. Beside her, Dayanna, a slight child with a side ponytail and baby pink fingernails, unspooled her story. Through a translator, she laid out the harrowing details in her sing-songy little voice, as if recounting the plot of a Disney movie.
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