Georgia agencies preparing to care for immigrant children

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ATLANTA - As Central American children continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border alone, the federal government is asking Georgia agencies to temporarily care for some of them.

At least one agency said they are ready to take action.

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 “I’m happy, very happy,” Samuel Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez was an unaccompanied minor who traveled to the U.S. border. The 13-year-old spoke with Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh in Spanish about his journey.

Gutierrez told Kavanaugh he was supposed to reunite with family already living in metro Atlanta.

He saw them for the first time in years on Wednesday at Hartsfield-Atlanta airport.

The 13-year-old is one of the thousands of children who fled Central America and traveled to the U.S. border on their own.

“It was hard. It was hard,” he said.

Gutierrez said the journey was so hard that he left El Salvador in June with a 'guia,' or a guide. He said he spent eight days on cars, buses, and even rafted over the Rio Grande to the border.

There, he was taken in custody by Border Patrol.

Agents were able to locate family to care for Gutierrez while he goes through the deportation process, but the facilities along the border helping children like him are overwhelmed.

The federal government is looking for help beyond the border in Georgia.

Among them, the Georgia Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries. The Palmetto ministry spent years caring for unaccompanied children from other countries. They may soon be tapped once again.

The ministry emailed Channel 2 this statement:

"In March of this year, our agency was contacted by the office of refugee resettlement concerning our interest and capabilities in providing these types of services once again."

"At this time, we continue to have an open dialogue with state and federal agencies and stand ready to assist these children in need."

Federal officials estimate the number of children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America could surpass 70,000 this year.

The office of refugee resettlement reached out to the Palmetto ministry in March. It is unclear when or if they will be utilized.

Channel 2 Action News received the following statement on Monday.

“Lutheran Services of Georgia has already been in communication with the Office of Refugee Resettlement regarding the unaccompanied children humanitarian crisis. We stand ready and willing to assist these vulnerable children in any way we are asked.”