14-Year-Old Girl Fights Cancer Alone Because Border Officials Won't Let Her Mom Cross the Border
"I want her to come here to take care of me. Because I need her," she said.
[Update: Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection have granted Dalia Perez's request, and she will be reunited with her daughter on Wednesday night. Cole Miller, a founding director of Solidarity Now, tells The News and Observer that it is not clear why they reversed their initial denials, nor is it apparent why she was refused entry in the first place. He says that Perez gave birth to her daughter in 2005 while legally living in the U.S. on a temporary visa, and he is not aware of any criminal history.]
When 14-year-old Ixcell Perez's leukemia relapsed earlier this year, her doctor in Mexico told her and her mother, Dalia Perez, to head to the United States to seek treatment. It would be her only hope of survival.
Ixcell is a U.S. citizen, born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her mother is a Mexican national. In 2010, both moved to Mexico.
Four months ago, after traveling four days by bus from Tapachula, Chiapas, the mother and daughter arrived at the southern border, where immigration agents at the Tijuana checkpoint reportedly locked them in a cold room with only a mat on the floor. The agents did not return until 3 p.m. the following afternoon, when they took them back to Mexico.
For reasons that remain unclear, Dalia Perez was denied entry to the United States. According to The News & Observer, Ixcell's brother, who is also a U.S. citizen, later met her at the border, and the two traveled to the brother's home in Raleigh. She is now at Duke Cancer Center for treatment.
Her mother remains in Mexico, denied entry to the U.S. while her daughter undergoes a grueling treatment plan. "She has a life-threatening illness that requires numerous hospitalizations, clinic visits and painful procedures," stated her doctor, oncologist Michael D. Deel, in a letter to border authorities. "The physical and emotional aspects of receiving therapy for leukemia are too much for any child to endure without the support of close family members."
The local community in North Carolina has rallied behind the family. Two churches have teamed up to send cards and games as well as bilingual visitors to the hospital to keep Ixcell company. Rep. David Price (D–N.C.) wrote his own letter in support of the Perez family, reminding U.S. Customs and Border Protection that the mother "is not seeking asylum and wishes only to care for her daughter while she receives cancer treatment." Solidarity Now, an immigration advocacy group, has also helped to publicize the family's story.
In a video recorded by Solidarity Now, Ixcell told the camera through tears that she was not prepared to go through this ordeal without the support of her mother. "I want her here to come take care of me," she said. "Because I need her."