Local News

Durham teen among few allowed in US through federal immigration program

Posted April 7, 2016 6:43 p.m. EDT

— A federal program established about a year and a half ago is giving some children from Central America a chance to flee violence in the region and make new homes in the United States.

The Central American Minors program was created to provide a safe and legal alternative to the surge of children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border by themselves – illegally – in 2014. To qualify, children must be from one of those three countries, be under 21 and unmarried, and their parents must be in the U.S. legally.

The U.S. State Department has received more than 7,700 applications to the CAM program as of April 1, officials said, but only 162 children have come into the U.S. through it.

Melvin Perez is one of the lucky few, arriving in Durham a month ago after 13 months of paperwork, interviews and health screenings.

Ana Perez said Thursday that she waited so long just to hug her 16-year-old son in this country, where he no longer faces the gang violence that plagues their native El Salvador, and it was worth the wait.

Melvin's trip to the U.S. marked his first flight on a plane, and he is now getting used to riding a school bus to classes every day. He said his biggest challenge is learning the English language, but he said he is catching on more quickly than he thought he would.

Because he didn't enter the U.S. as a refugee, Melvin must start an entirely new immigration process. He said he just wants to take advantage of every opportunity life gives him and move forward.

CAM processing centers in North Carolina

Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency
5007 Monroe Road, Suite 101
Charlotte, NC 28205

Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte
1123 South Church St.
Charlotte, NC 28203-4003

Church World Service-IRP
112 S. Duke St., Suite 4-B
Durham, NC 27701

World Relief Durham
801 Gilbert St. #209
Durham, NC 27701

Church World Service-IRP
620 S. Elm St., Suite 315
Greensboro, NC 27406

North Carolina African Services Coalition
122 N. Elm St., Suite 810
Greensboro, NC 27401

World Relief High Point
155 Northpoint Ave., Suite 102
High Point, NC 27262

Diocese of East Carolina Interfaith Refugee Ministry
1913 Trent Blvd.
New Bern, NC 28560

Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas
616 Hutton St.
Raleigh, NC 27606

5 W. Hargett St., Suite 202
Raleigh, NC 27601

East Carolina Interfaith Refugee Ministry - Wilmington
610-A S. College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403

World Relief Winston-Salem
545 N. Trade St., Suite 201
Winston-Salem, NC 27101