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10-year-old undocumented immigrant describes treacherous trip across border
HOUSTON - by Drew Karedes/KHOU 11 News and www.khou.com
A 10-year-old boy could be deported back to his home country of Guatemala after making a more than 1,000 mile journey to the United States border.
Juan Angel Gonzalez De La Cruz is one of thousands of children illegally crossing the border during the recent surge.
The child says he was scared to make the trek on foot but determined to be with his immediate family.
De La Cruz was left by his mother and father when he was just 1-year and 9-months-old.
He hit the road on April 23 and didn't look back for the 16 days of travel.
"During the day we didn't walk. We could rest, and at night, we would travel," he said in Spanish. "I was afraid immigration would catch me and never let me go."
De La Cruz says the coyote his family hired abandoned him early on in the trip.
"I got up, and nobody was there. I kept on walking, and followed the trail," explained De La Cruz. "I felt lonely."
De La Cruz was accompanied by a 16-year-old.
He says they ran out of food and water just two days in and had to drink water from rivers to survive.
"I was so thirsty," he said.
De La Cruz reached a border checkpoint in Laredo, TX, on May 9th.
He ended up in a shelter in San Antonio, and more than a month later he was released to his parents.
"I felt happy because it was tremendous anguish. We didn't know if he was lost," explained mother Vivian De La Cruz.
De La Cruz is now living with his family in southwest Houston.
He's getting to know his 4-year-old brother and 15-month-old sister for the first time. They were both born in the United States and are U.S. citizens.
"I came to study. I came to know my brother and sister," added De La Cruz.
The family is now awaiting a hearing with immigration officials. They fear that the 10-year-old will be deported.
Immigration attorney Raed Gonzalez says that is the sad reality for many of these kids.
"We cannot just send these children back to god knows what," said attorney Raed Gonzalez. "There's a lot of these children that came here because of a genuine need and cry of help."
Gonzalez says the law is meant to protect children who have a credible fear of returning to their home country.