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"You can't have a good life here"

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador - The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection said this week nearly all the immigrant children who had been held in Nogales, Arizona, have been moved and taken to other facilities.

Last month, 1,000 were crammed into the Nogales center. They were part of the surge of unaccompanied children from Central America that has overwhelmed border agents in Texas.

Every day, more of these children attempt the dangerous journey to the United States. To better understand why they do it, CBS News went to El Salvador's capital.

More than 15 buses arrive every week carrying dozens of young people - some as young as a year old.

They had fled for the U.S., but were caught in Mexico and deported back to a government processing center in San Salvador.

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Young people who had fled for the U.S. but were caught in Mexico are deported back to a government processing center in San Salvador.
CBS News

One 15-year-old girl was traveling with her baby. What was she looking for in the United States?

"A better life," she said in Spanish.

"You can't have a good life here," she said. "There are too many problems, too much crime."

Her parents left El Salvador 10 years ago for the U.S. She's been trying to join them ever since.

A 16-year-old girl said she wanted a better future for her son.

"It was one of the toughest decisions of my life," she said. "But I'm afraid for my son because of the violence and gangs here, so I had to try."

On this day, the teens were among 60 registered at the center. Here, they're asked why they left, warned about the risks of trying again, and then released.

When young people return to their neighborhoods, there is no safety net. And most have no faith their government is working to protect them.

"They are afraid of organized crime, they're afraid of gangs," said Elizabeth Kennedy.

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"It's very common for children here to have seen a murder. It's common for children to have already lost a family member," says researcher Elizabeth Kennedy.
CBS News

Kennedy is a Fulbright scholar who has interviewed more than 500 Salvadoran children as part of her research.

"It's very common for children here to have seen a murder. It's common for children to have already lost a family member. That's something no one should have to live with because you're not really living your life if every moment you're afraid you're going to die," she said.

El Salvador has the world's fourth-highest murder rate, fueled by powerful gangs and a growing drug trade. Those sent back from the U.S. are prime targets.

Kennedy says that more than half of the children she's interviewed after they were sent back plan on trying to make the journey again.

Does she think the Obama administration coming out and saying they can't stay here will actually decrease the flow?

"I do not. Until root causes are addressed, until people can feel safe at home, until they are not afraid for their life, people are going to keep migrating because it is a human instinct to want to survive," she said.

It's a tough proposition for these kids once they return to life outside the processing center gates.