LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Thousands of Central American children have crossed the border in recent months, reaching our valley. Attorneys are meeting with children who have fled their countries, and learning more about the desperate situation in Central America.
"The main reason these kids are coming is because they want to be alive. They want to survive. They are seeking refuge in the United States," said immigration attorney Kathia Pereira.
Pereira is seeing four to five families a week from three different countries: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. She says teenagers are coming to Las Vegas to escape gang violence.
"They are coming here in fear for their lives and I firmly believe them. I firmly believe a 13 year old who ran away because he didn't want to be killed," Pereira said.
But she says their future is grim, because they may be deported back to the country from which they fled. She estimates there could be as many as a thousand in Southern Nevada because of ties to family or friends, but she says federal leaders believe that number will greatly rise by the end of the year.
"I believe we should do something about these kids. it is the nature of our human beings to protect those in need and right now we are talking about the most vunerable, the children," Periera said.
"If you have families that are already split between the U.S. and El Salvador or between the U.S. and Honduras and people are afraid that their children might be killed or recruited into a gang, then this is when this type of thing might occur," said UNLV Associate Professor of Law Michael Kagan.
As the surge of children grows in our valley, Kagan says these children must be treated humanely.
"We don't want kids behind bars. Kids need to live in homes," Kagan said.
The valley, like other regions of the country dealing with the arrival of children, will also need to address issues of food, healthcare and education.
Federal officials estimate that since October of last year, the numbers of children crossing the border may have reached 90,000. Pereira says about 10,000 may be heading to Nevada.
A bill has been introduced in Congress to help those crossing the border with legal representation for their individual immigration cases.