ATLANTA - Local nonprofits working with unaccompanied minors from other countries estimate thousands of them are trying to get to Georgia or have already reunited with family here.
Now that humanitarian crisis at the border is reaching Georgia.
"They've been flooding into Atlanta for the past probably month and a-half," attorney Rebecca Salmon told Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh.
Salmon runs the Access to Law Foundation. The nonprofit represents children who arrived in America alone. The federal government calls them unaccompanied minors. The Gwinnett County-based foundation represents kids who have reunified with family in Georgia, Alabama, parts of Tennessee and South Carolina.
"Our current caseload is well over a thousand kids," Salmon said.
Salmon said she helps the children determine the best option for them, which she said is often voluntarily leaving the U.S.
The majority, she said, will ultimately be deported. A small percentage could stay under special circumstances, like if they meet criteria for political asylum.
"There's just no safety, no security, no stability. They can't go to school. There's no work,” Salmon said.
Salmon says the spike in gang violence in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is driving children out.
Often paying transporters thousands of dollars, Salmon said the children are treated like cattle.
"The kids that we talk to have been victims of sexual assault en route, they've been beaten, they've been starved,” Salmon said.
Salmon said she thinks many children never make it to the border. She says she's heard from families who haven't heard from their children in months.