A Romanian woman is seeking asylum in the United States

New wave of migrants puts US and other countries to the test

On an unusually frigid morning last month in eastern Europe, a 20-something Romanian woman set out from the station with her three children, her backpack full of clothes, food, and a toothbrush. She walked more than eight hours on the cobbled street of the old town of Czernopol, walking through the snow and freezing temperatures, and then continued to the train station in a desperate search of a place to leave her family for good.

Her story, and so many stories, are part of the new wave of migrants pouring into Europe by the tens of thousands, drawn by a combination of desperation and hope. Thousands of unaccompanied children — often under the age of 5 years — are among those who are desperate to gain entry to a new home, where they know no one and are not registered with authorities.

Migrants crossing the border in the southern Mexican town of Matamoros — a hub for illegal immigration and trafficking — gather at the main border crossing as they wait to be processed. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

She came to the United States in 2012 and has been without a permanent place to live for seven months, as she and her family have followed the long and often dangerous journeys through Latin America, across the southern border to her native Romania, and to the Greek island of Lesbos. Her story is particularly poignant because her husband has gone off to fight in the war-torn central American country of El Salvador.

“I was the one who started with the travel,” said Ms. Lina, who asked that her last name not be used out of fear for her family “because we have no control what my kids will do.” If they leave, they will be separated from her and the two youngest children, who were 3 and 1 when they crossed the border in December.

Ms. Lina has lived through a few previous attempts to get her family to Europe, most recently in Lesbos, but she said they spent most of their time in the car after their trip to Bucharest.

The family’s situation became so desperate that they were considering seeking asylum in the United States. When her husband took off for El Salvador last month,

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