UNION CITY, NJ – While American mothers are busy getting their children ready for school, buying supplies and new clothes, and maybe even choosing a new school, mothers like Joanna Rodriguez were making the difficult decision to leave their Central American homes for the sake of their children. The small neighborhoods within Rodriguez’s hometown near the capital of El Salvador were long overpowered by gang members who demanded a tax from the local residents.

“I did not feel safe in El Salvador. The local gangs often go door to door, demanding money or any valuables in return for what they call peace. If you are not able to pay, they will kill you in front of your family,” said Rodriguez.

Her story is typical of thousands of Central American families fleeing their countries due to an increase of violence. The dramatic rise of crime has caused war-like levels of violence in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. This crisis has escalated to where parents have been forced to send their unaccompanied children to find sanctuary in the United States. According to The New York Times, Mexico and the United States have returned 40,000 children to their Central American countries in the last five years.

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Based in Union City, Centro Comunitario CEUS has launched a month-long fund-raiser with a goal of $30,000 to provide legal representation to keep these children from being deported. Joanna is just one of many families they serve. Upon hearing her story, CEUS helped her submit and verify her Temporary Protective Status (TPS) after a notary had taken her $600 processing fee and disappeared.

“The violent situations in countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala has reached a crisis, threatening the lives of its most vulnerable citizens, women and children,” said CEUS executive director, Blanca Molina. “Our organization is dedicated to safeguarding these children, so that they can grow up in peace and security like other American children. Donations to our fund-raising drive will go a long way to achieving that goal.”  

To donate or become a team leader, visit https://keepfamiliestogether.causevox.com/ or call 201-617-2455. Donations can also be mailed to PO Box 577, West New York, 07093. Each donation of $50 or more is tax deductible.