Colorado

Jul 10, 2014 8:40 PM by Andy Koen

Gang violence and human traffickers provoke immigration crisis

PUEBLO - A nun who helps immigrants in Pueblo County says who children fleeing Central American countries in droves for the US are refugee trying to escape uncontrolled gang violence.

Sister Nancy Crafton runs El Centro de Los Pobres in Avondale which gives poverty-stricken immigrants and Armenians alike food, clothing and medical attention.

In May, State Troopers brought Crafton 11 people from Honduras and Guatemala, nine of them children. They pulled over the car of a human trafficker known as a coyote when they spotted the vehicle weaving on US Highway 50 near Penrose.

"They were (on the road) for 20 hours and when the car started to swerve because the coyote started to fall asleep, everyone was terrified that they were going to die," Crafton said.

One girl told her a horrifying story about the gangs in her home country.

"The gangs were so bad that they wanted her to become one of their members and she refused, she and her little girlfriend refused," Crafton recalled. "The little girlfriends was kidnapped, gang-raped, murdered and dismembered."

The US State Department issued an updated travel warning in June urging Americans not to visit Honduras because of the high number of murders, kidnappings and robberies. The county has the world's highest murder rate with 75-79 homicides per 100,000 people annually.

Sister Nancy gave the immigrants in her care bus tickets to California and Washington where they connected with relatives. She believes the coyotes are aggravating the child immigration problem along the Southern US Border.

"When the coyotes started to say 'Go now, this is the time to go' they wanted the money, and they spread untruths to the families and this is why the big influx has come."

She also believe the human crisis underscores the need for comprehensive federal immigration policy reform.

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