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The Journey For Central American Minors in Making The Case for Asylum

Charlotte Observer
Robert Lahser

When people debate immigration in the news, it's usually in reference to laborers coming to the U.S. from Mexico in search of work and decent wages. But the country is beginning to face a new type of immigrant coming into the country not for work, but for asylum.

Consider the recent case of 18-year-old Pedro Salmeron. Two years ago, he fled El Salvador where gangs terrorized his town and took the life of his cousin. He crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on foot and was caught by the U.S. Border patrol who sent him to his parents, already living in Charlotte, N.C., because he was a minor. Since then, he lost his case in immigration court and accepted a voluntary order of deportation. He could have appealed for asylum, but didn't, because he says his lawyer never told him that was an option.

Salmeron's case has received attention from local media and from activists who are trying to get him released from detention while his application for asylum is pending. But his case also represents a trend of minors coming into the U.S. fleeing violence in Central America - more than 1,000 of them settled in Mecklenburg County in 2014. More than 120,000 have ended up in other parts of the country.

WFAE's Nick de la Canal spoke with a local immigration attorney, Cynthia Aziz, who's familiar with asylum cases, to find out more about who these young people are, and what they have to prove to obtain asylum in the U.S.