One of NC6 immigrant teens from Charlotte faces imminent deportation

Moises Salmeron holds a picture of his nephew, Pedro Arturo Salmeron, during a prayer protest at the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 29.
Moises Salmeron holds a picture of his nephew, Pedro Arturo Salmeron, during a prayer protest at the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 29. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

An 18-year-old Charlottean swept up in a series of controversial immigration arrests this year is likely to be deported in the next 24 hours, after his 100-page appeal was denied within hours of being filed, said his attorney, J. Britt Thames of Macon, Ga.

Pedro Arturo Salmeron of Charlotte – one of six arrested immigrant teens known as the NC6 – was transferred Thursday from a Georgia jail to an undisclosed location in preparation for the deportation, Thames said.

Yet another appeal was hurriedly filed Thursday, but Thames says it’s likely Salmeron will disappear from the country before it has been decided upon. That appeal is based on the fact that Salmeron still has a pending case for asylum that could allow him to stay in Charlotte with his parents.

“The most recent denial by (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) falls under the the authority of the President’s (Barack Obama) administration, and they are all at the Democratic National Convention now, parading around Latin American children on stage like they’re protecting them,” Thames said. “But they are also deporting young Latin Americans like Pedro, who are seeking asylum.”

Salmeron, who is originally from El Salvador, is one of two Charlotte teens included among the NC6. The other, Yefri Sorto-Hernandez, was released on bond a few weeks ago by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The six arrests drew national attention and sparked a series of protests because some of the teens were allegedly arrested on the way to school. ICE officials have denied that was the case.

The two Charlotte teens came to the United States in 2014 as part of a flood of Central American minors who showed up without parents at the U.S. border between 2009 and 2014. Most said they were escaping violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries that have some of the world’s highest murder rates. They were willing to make the dangerous journey based on word-of-mouth knowledge of a Bush-era law that requires unaccompanied children from Central America to be given immigration court consideration and possible asylum.

It’s estimated 68,000 Central American minors crossed into the country that year with no pretense of hiding. More than 1,000 such youths have settled in Charlotte while awaiting immigration court hearings, which gave Mecklenburg County the nation’s 13th highest population of kids linked to the crisis.

Salmeron’s family claims a cousin in El Salvador was killed and dismembered by gang members, prompting him to make the trip to the United States. He lost his immigration court case and was issued an order to leave the country. However, Thames says the teen never made an application for asylum at the time, which could have resulted in a different outcome.

ICE officials said Thursday that policy prevents the agency from confirming pending deportations for security reasons.