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    In East Boston, 3 adolescent migrants share their experiences crossing the border

    Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff photo
    Denis Martinez, 15, bows his head after answering a question about his journey to the United States during a discussion sponsored by Centre Presente of East Boston Thursday evening.

    In a community room in East Boston, three adolescents from Central America shared their experience of migrating to the United States Thursday night to a group of about 20 people.

    One boy and two girls sat facing the intimate group, recalling their personal encounters with violence in Central America and the unsafe migratory routes and detention centers in the United States.

    Denis, 15, said he came to America to escape gang violence.


    “Gang members would stop our school bus, and rip students off the bus to threaten us to join their gang,” Denis said. “One time, they killed one of the boys in front of us and said we would all be next if we didn’t join.”

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    After speaking, he tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.

    The three were brought to the United States with the help of Centro Presente, a nonprofit based in East Boston that provides legal services to migrants. The group, which helped secure their release from detention centers, organized the hour long program held at 4-6 Eagle Square.

    Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente, sat alongside the youths and helped to translate their statements from Spanish to English for people in the audience.

    Montes said, violence is perpetrated by gangs and the government, and there is often gender violence towards women.


    Cindy, 15, wiped tears from her eyes as she explained her reason for coming to America with her siblings.

    “We were being taken care of by my uncle who couldn’t walk and living in poverty,” Cindy said. “I hadn’t seen my mother in over 6 years.”

    The three adolescents said, migratory routes and detention centers were unsafe and unsanitary.

    The second girl, who asked not to be identified, said they put 50 people on a bus meant for 20 people on her way here.

    “I spent 27 hours in a truck once without sleeping, eating, or going to the bathroom,” she said.


    The youths were only telling the parts of their story they felt comfortable enough sharing, Montes said.

    The three all described detention centers in similar ways. They said, they didn’t have regular access to blankets, toothbrushes, showers, or private bathrooms. It was often cold, and they slept on the floor.

    Montes said, this week alone Centro Presente has 21 new legal cases all dealing with children, and the group need donations for legal support.

    “The U.S. needs to change their policies towards Central America because they are killing us,” Montes said.

    Sofia Saric can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sofia_saric.