We give very specific information on what Cabrini University developed for our simulation. We hope this helps you, but feel free to modify and improve what we did.

Outline and set-up

  • At the Identity Station at the start, the leader at the door explains the journey from three different countries, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. All will then go through Mexico, until they get to the border.
  • At the Identity Station at the start, the leader assigns each participant an identity, gives each a sum of money, tells them to read their identity, and to proceed on the journey.
  • The participants travel through different countries in the Triangle into
  • Mexico and ride on the train called La Bestia.
  • During this time, participants will be attacked by gang members, who will steal from them and intimidate them.
  • Finally participants reach the U.S. – Mexico Border.
  • Before they go to the Judge, it is important for someone to interpret the journey with the participants (see video). She then tells them to go before
  • a Judge
  • The Judge can assign three different outcomes
    • Deportation
    • Reuniting with family
    • Detention Center
  • After each participant leaves their assigned outcome, it is important to have someone interpret the second phase, the Legal Aspects of deportation (see video), detention, or family unification.
  • Each participant then goes to the Prayer Reflection area and finally to
  • the Advocacy area.


Supplies needed

Here is a list of supplies you need to create Refugees Seeking Safety:

  • Journey:
    • Colored Coded Index Cards
    • 6ft Table
    • Multi Colored Duck Tape
    • Fake Money
    • Cones
    • Number of People:
  • Judge:
    • Gavel/Robe
    • Podium
    • Number of People: One
  • Detention Center:
    • Cot/Mattress
    • Foil Blanket
    • Fair Trade Tortillas
    • Rope/Chains
    • Number of People:
  • Family Reunification:
    • Circle Table/Chairs
    • Snacks or Cookies
    • Number of People:
  • Deportation Area:
    • Chairs
    • Number of People:
  • Advocacy Area:
    • 3 Tables/Chairs
    • Postcards/Fliers (Getting your point across, links, resources)
    • Posters with Pictures
      • “Refugees Seeking Safety”
      • “I Understand What It Means to Be a Refugee Seeking Safety”
    • Bracelets or Something they can take away from this.
    • Signed Letters to Congressmen, Senators.
    • Number of People: 4-6
  • Prayer Reflection Area:
    • Table
    • Mounted Pictures
    • Candles
    • Reflection Booklet
    • Number of People: 2-3

Participants receive identities of minors at the start

Script: (see video)

Hello and Welcome to Refugees Seeking Safety.

What you are about to experience is something that kids, teens and young adults in Central America go through everyday. Starting in their home countries, they flee towards the United States due to gang violence. What we are going to do today, is give you an identity card of a child who has actually made this journey before; how they traveled, reasons why they left, and what happened to them if they reached the U.S. We are going to give you a taste of what it is like to be an Unaccompanied Minor.

(Give out Identity Cards and Money)

When you are finished reading your Identity Cards, you may begin your journey ahead.

(Show them the path they are going to need to go to)

Identities are printed on colored cards. 6 different colors for the 6 identities.

Each of the cards they are handed have a different identity and country of origin. Based on these backstories each person’s journey will be slightly different. Here is a PDF file with all the six identities you can download and print.


Sample identity card

Sample identity card

  1. Daniel Penado Zowala
    Age: 17
    Country: El Salvador
    Background: Gang members killed his father. The gang members would kill him if he resisted their wishes.
    Journey: However you want
  2. Rosa DeJesus
    Country: El Salvador
    Background: In El Salvador, gangs take young girls, rape them and throw them in a plastic bags.
  3. Kayla Perez
    Age: 15
    Country: Honduras
    Background: Traveled with her 2 children: 18 months, 2 yrs, mother and 3 siblings. She wanted to get away from her father who raped her. Also she fled from gangs.
  4. Chris Omar Rodriguez
    Age: 11
    Country: Honduras
    Background: His father was robbed and murdered by gangs while working as a security guard protecting a food truck.
  5. Cecilia Reyes
    Age: 17
    Country: Guatemala
    Background: This is her 5th time trying, she hired a smuggler to get out of the country to go to the US for freedom.
  6. Maria Nelson
    Country: Guatemala
    Background: She grew up in Guatemala and was abused by her dad. After several attempts, she fled to the US for a better life.

**Note: Many people who attempt this tough journey to the US Border often get turned back. Suggestion: Send some people back to the beginning(their home country).


Gang members

The gang members can have scripts.  But their script is usually ad libbed. (see video)

However the basics of the gang members’ scripts are:

  1. we steal all of your money.
  2. we will beat you up.
  3. we will send you back and force you to try the journey again.


Debrief the journey at the US-Mexico border (see video)

Someone who really understands the entire simulation well should be selected to debrief each participant about the journey.

Once a participant makes the journey through her home country she must travel through Mexico.

  • The people making the journey sit down on crates(4-6).
  • They are riding the train or La Bestia.(This is the train that will get them through most of Mexico.)
  • While on the train, there will be someone talking to them.


The gang violence you just experienced in your home country doesn’t stop there.  Other outcomes that could happen are you get raped, abused, beaten, or killed.  These young children don’t want to leave their home countries, their families, their friends, their homes. Everything they know is in these countries.  You have now made it to Mexico. You are traveling through Mexico on La Bestia.  You just finish traveling through your home countries. You are lucky enough to even make it out of your home countries with all of the gang violence. However their is more gang violence in Mexico. While traveling through Mexico, the journey takes about 15-20 days. Most of these young children board the train you are on now.  These people spend most of their time on this train.  It is dangerous as you can see. Often times at night gang members will hop on the train and steal people’s money or just ask for their money. If the children don’t have it, the gangs will throw you off.  People get seriously injured on this train. Once off the train, there are rest stops provided by churches where people can spend a night and get food and rest. Then they have to wake up the next morning and face more gang violence. If you are lucky enough to make it through Mexico and not be sent back you arrive at the border while you will await your fate.  That is where you will be heading next.”

While these people are traveling on the train:

There should be a few gang members that pop out as you are speaking to steal their money and even “throw” them off the train.

You should have pictures to show.

The pictures should include:

  1. The countries: to show how truly long this journey is.
  2. The train.
  3. People traveling on the train.
  4. The gang violence in Mexico.
  5. People broken limbs. What people look like after the train.


Legal system at border (The judge)

The Judge determines which of three outcomes is assigned to a participant. The judge does not speak Spanish, while the minors do. No interpreter is provided. A small percentage gets legal representation. If a minor has a lawyer, chances for family unification is vastly higher.

There are three outcomes:

  1. Deportation: “I’m not sure why you made this journey. There is no point in you being here. I’m just going to send you back again.” Minors who are deported often are dropped off at the capital city of their country, with no resources to return home. They are prey to the same dangers as when they fled.
  2. Detention: “I don’t speak Spanish. I only speak English. I don’t know what to do with you. See what will happen to you.” The conditions of the detention centers resemble prisons. Read more here.
  3. Family reunification in the US: ”You got lucky, you are being reunited with your family. Hope it is what you wanted it to be.” Although this sounds like a good outcome, if you read Enrique’s Journey, you will learn that the reunification has many problems. The parents have moved on and may have a new family. The new arrival is another mouth to feed. There may be resentment and anger because of the years of separation.


Debriefing the 3 border outcomes

Again, it is important to have a well-informed leader spend time with each participant debriefing all that happens at the border.

Here is a video of Cabrini’s Katie Briante doing a debrief.