An undocumented immigrant caught in the middle

(CBS News) NEW YORK - At the University of Southern California Saturday, protesters for immigrant rights held an old-fashioned teach-in to explain a new program designed to protect more undocumented workers who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The program comes with strict guidelines, and we met one young person who just missed out.

This 21-year-old, who asked CBS News to protect her identity, fled El Salvador at the age of 16. She says the gang violence was so bad, she was too scared to go school.

"I liked to study," she said. "I liked to go in at the school, but I didn't want to. Because I was scared to be outside."

She left her country behind for an expensive, grueling six-week journey alone to the United States. She said smugglers dealt harshly with those who didn't pay their way."They killed them in the middle of the desert," she said.

The Department of Health and Human Services says it has placed nearly over 11,000 immigrant children in U.S. shelters so far this year -- more than twice the number a year ago, and an all-time high.

The majority are Central American and believed to be fleeing drug and gang violence. Three nations there -- Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras -- have some of the highest murder rates in the world.

Wendy Young, of Kids in Need of Defense, says these children need psychological help and lawyers. Roughly half don't have legal counsel.

"It's important to get services in to these children to try to talk them and find out what's happening in their lives in their home countries," said Young, "why they are coming now, and if they're eligible for some protection in the U.S. or should they be returned home."

As for what this young woman hopes for, she said to stay. "Because I wanna make all my dreams to come true."

Her dream is to become a doctor, but for now she lives under the threat of deportation back to a country where her only hope would be to stay alive.

  • Terrell Brown

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