A photojournalist who was denied access to a shelter for children of families illegally crossing the United States border ventured into Mexico in order to “find other ways to tell the story” and came back with raw, exclusive images of how the children are living.

With limited access to these shelters, El Paso, Texas-based photojournalist Ivan Pierre Aguierre decided to cross the dried-up Rio Grande by foot, where he then made his way to the child shelter and took photos of the facility through a tiny hole in the border fence.

Aguierre’s raw images show dozens of children playing soccer on a make-shift dirt field. Another image shows dozens of people lined up outside in front of white tents.

Aguierre told CTV News Channel some of the children looked to be as young as seven-years-old and while they seemed happy, he wondered if their smiles told the whole story.

“They could’ve been inside for hours and this is the one time to go out and play,” he said. “At first appearance, you see these kids playing soccer, but you don’t know behind the scenes how they feel.”

An estimated 2,000 children have been separated from their families since April after their parents tried to cross the border illegally. The parents are being arrested and sent to court, while the children are being sent to these shelters.

Aguierre said he plans to cross into Mexico again this week and has agreed to show some other reporters where he was able to capture the images.

“We have a responsibility as journalists to try to tell the stories and to show images and video of what’s going on, since we’re not allowed to shoot and photograph from within,” he said.