VEGAS LOST: A teen's dangerous escape from Honduras

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“It felt good.”

He looks young. Younger than his 16 years let on.

“I got here alive and I didn’t lose a foot or hand so I felt that I was lucky. Even though you encounter people on the way who want to do things to you, I was lucky enough to make it.”

This is a story about a teenager’s journey to Las Vegas and what was waiting for him when he got here.

"Kevin" is from Honduras. At 16, with no family, he was threatened by gangs. With nothing in his pockets and no money to his name, Kevin left.

“It was very difficult,” Kevin told us. “I had to get on buses and beg for money for the passage. Sometimes went without eating or drinking.”

Kevin begged his way to Mexico and hopped a train known as “The Beast.”

It was a months-long journey of survival. “It’s very difficult. Especially if you lose limbs like a hand. That’s a possibility. There are people who want to do things to you and there are people who die and lose limbs from the train.”

Kevin’s escape from gang violence is not unusual. When he got to America he was detained, that is not unusual either. The number of juveniles fighting deportation in Nevada has exploded. From 60 in 2012 to just over 400 in 2017, to now well over 1,000 since January of this year.

Many of them will find navigating the court system to be just as difficult as navigating the busses and trains that brought them here.

In America, those kids are not given an attorney. Spend a day in immigration court and you will see kids as young as 9 speaking directly with a judge.

What’s at stake can be life or death. Kevin tells us if he is sent back he could die. But fear of death is not enough to grant amnesty. In Las Vegas, amnesty might be out of reach.

While nationally 48% of amnesty cases are granted, in Vegas judges granted just 8%.

“We have a lot of children in Nevada in this process right now. His case is very compelling because of the things he’s gone through in his life.” Said Attorney Mayra Salinas-Menjivar.

For Kevin, his future now is in family court. A woman here has offered to sponsor him, a judge will decide if she can. Attorneys at UNLV, one of only three groups in town offering free legal care to undocumented people, have taken him as a client.

We wanted to know why kids were not getting attorneys and why so many amnesty cases were denied here so we reached out to our reps in Washington D.C.

Only two got back to us.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Congresswoman Dina Titus both support changes to the system.

“The court system and our immigration laws are difficult to navigate for anyone, but for children, doing so without legal counsel more often than not results in deportation", says Titus.

“Kids belong in schools and playground, not in detention centers or streets, running for their lives", says Masto.

There is a bill called the Access to Counsel Act which would provide attorneys for these kids in front of the house.

It was introduced in February 2017 and has since sat dormant.

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