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Salvadoran Girl Shares Her Dangerous Journey To North Texas

Stella M. Chávez
Dallas ISD student Sylvia Marroquin (black shirt) told her story of fleeing El Salvador during a press conference at Dallas City Hall on Monday. An interpretor (to her left) translated her story.

So far, most of the debate over the immigrant children who have crossed the Texas border has been political. On Monday, an event featuring religious and community leaders supporting those children put a spotlight on a girl in the middle of that debate. She told her story with the help of a translator.

Sylvia Marroquin is only 14 and she’s already seen a lot of tragedy. Last year, her math teacher was shot and killed. Two months ago, her 10-year-old brother Alexis, saw his school bus driver gunned down.

“You guys don’t have any idea how terrible it is to live in a country where the gangs don’t have compassion for any minor,” Sylvia said.

Her brother’s school closed the day after that shooting. At Monday’s press conference, Sylvia asked the U.S. government to allow Alexis to come to the U.S. He’s staying with his grandmother, who’s very ill. They live in a shed behind a house in El Salvador.

“My little brother, he begs for food on the streets,” Sylvia said.

Their parents were faced with a difficult decision. They had to choose which child to send to the U.S. because a coyote, or smuggler, charged $4,500 per person.

“My father chose me because I was a woman and because of my age," Sylvia said. "And he believed that the best thing for me was to get out of the country as soon as possible.”

Sylvia had to travel alone with the coyote through Guatemala and Mexico. It was a dangerous journey with little food or water.

“But the worst thing was that I was attacked by the coyote and other people, and for that reason, it’s not going to be easy for me to forget about this attack,” said Sylvia, who's a student in the Dallas Independent School District.

Sylvia's parents are here. But she wants the entire family to be reunited. And her personal goal? To become a lawyer and help others like her.