Long, dangerous journey for illegal immigrants into U.S. fueled by violence in native countries

GUATEMALA CITY (KTRK) -- Guatemala City, the heart of the Mayan civilization, is the poorest country in all of Central America and one of the poorest in the entire world. And it is also from there where immigrants, tens of thousands of them, are arriving in the United States, desperate for a new life.

Immigrants, everywhere, are always on the move like Maria and her two children from the Honduras-Guatemala border. Maria's story is like so many others, desperate for a new life. She's looking for a future for her 5- and 4-year-old after barely surviving the rampant poverty and violence of this land.

"One year, two years, three years, they are crossing. All the people, all of them crossing," said Ademar Barilli.

Barilli runs an immigrant house in Guatemala that is overwhelmed with child immigrants running from gang warfare.

"Security doesn't exist anymore. It's dangerous, it's violent," he said. "Because of the violence, the extortions in Central America this year, the number is big."

Even during our short time in Guatemala, three funeral processions marched by. The caskets were carrying the bodies of those killed by deadly gang violence.

From Guatemala City, we headed to the central bus station, getting an earful from the driver about the wave of children leaving. It's all about the economy, he says, it's trouble with the economy, violence, drugs, guns and killings.

At the bus station, we saw more immigrants, all headed one direction -- to the border.

It's a seven-hour ride through long, winding, mountainous roads to reach the Guatemalan-Mexican border. It's there we met Honduran natives Manuel and Julia, just 16 and 15 years old, and already two weeks into their journey.

With each step, they are closer to their dream. They arrived now at the Guatemalan-Mexican border and another dangerous crossing before heading into Mexico, where the longest, deadliest journey still lies ahead.
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