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Immigrants Tell Harrowing Tales Of Crossing U.S. Southern Border Before Relocating In Tri-State Area

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- About 6,000 people show up at the U.S. southern border each day. It has led to an unprecedented border crisis.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon has a look at why so many immigrants are willing to leave everything behind, and what those in our area are doing to help give them a new beginning.

The trip across the southern border is dangerous.

For Maria and her teenage daughter, it felt like their only option.

"It's very difficult for us, to uproot our lives and start over," she told CBS2 through a translator.

They left Mexico City in late 2019, traveling through chest-deep water. They made it across the Rio Grande, with nothing but the clothes on their back.

"It sounds like you didn't have a plan," Rincon said.

"No, not exactly," Maria said.

U.S. southern border
(Photo: CBS2)

They were eventually caught and spent 45 days in a Texas detention center.

"To be honest, I saw it as a salvation. I would stay here for the rest of my life with my daughter. Let me stay here because it is safe here," she said.

READ MORECongresswoman Malliotakis On Conversation With President Biden: 'I Urged Him To Go To The Border'

She said she left an abusive relationship in which she feared for her life, but the toughest part was leaving her two boys behind. One is 5, the other 18. He now sends her videos to remind her they're okay.

For now, Maria is living in Jersey City, after getting help from several organizations, including one called Welcome Home. Its executive director, Alain Mentha, said since the coronavirus pandemic, it has only gotten harder for those in need of help.

EXTENDED VERSION: Tri-State Area Immigrants Tell Harrowing Tales Of Crossing Southern Border

"Our country doesn't provide a right way right now. The refuge admissions program has been effectively shut down and the asylum process has been dismantled. So there's no right way to immigrate if you're fleeing persecution," Mentha said.

He said for many people trying to come in, it's a matter of life and death.

"Our clients come to us with missing fingers on their hands because of torture, scars all over their bodies and scars all over their minds," Mentha said.

READ MORELawmakers Take Dueling Trips To Border Amid Concerns About Migrant Surge

It's for those reasons that so many want to help out, including Rev. Deacon Jill Singleton of the Church of St. Paul and Incarnation. She's currently housing a family from Guatemala in a home called the Lighthouse.

"I think people around the world hear about the United States as being a beacon of hope and freedom. Unfortunately, when people hit our shores, they have an experience that's completely contrary to that. So I like to think about the Lighthouse as almost a second welcome, almost an apology for what you've been through and an opportunity for us to show you that you are valued," Singleton said.

She has helped refugees, and asylum seekers from all over the globe, for decades. People like Blanca Matute, who left Honduras 20 years ago with her daughter.

"We all come here with a dream to help our families, and ourselves, but we all leave something behind. In my case, that something, the most valuable things in my life, my two kids," Matute said.

When she left, they were 8 and 4 years old. Now, she's got a 3-year-old grandson she's never seen.

But she hopes that'll soon change. After a decade of being married to an American, she's months away from potentially becoming a permanent resident.

While she's at the end of her journey, close to realizing her dream, Maria is at the beginning.

"There have been a lot of times I thought about going back because of my kids," Maria said.

Blanca said it's about holding on to faith.

"The hardest step, she already took it, and that's leaving your home. When I got here I, too, wanted to leave," she said.

But for now, thousands are more than willing to risk it all for just the chance to be here.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon contributed to this report

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