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Mom allowed into US to be with teen daughter through leukemia treatment at Duke

14-year-old fights leukemia alone while mom is stuck at the border

Two Triangle-area churches, a Duke oncologist, a N.C. congressman and an immigrant advocacy group are trying to help a 14-year-old leukemia patient’s mother gain permission to come from Mexico to Durham to be with her daughter during treatment.
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Two Triangle-area churches, a Duke oncologist, a N.C. congressman and an immigrant advocacy group are trying to help a 14-year-old leukemia patient’s mother gain permission to come from Mexico to Durham to be with her daughter during treatment.

A 14-year-old girl being treated for leukemia at Duke University will be reunited with her mother Wednesday night after U.S. border officials relented and told the mother she could cross the border to be with her ailing child.

Jonathan Hahn, spokesman for Solidarity Now, a group that has been advocating for the family, said Dalia Perez of Chiapas, Mexico, got a call from an official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday. She was told to come to the entry point from Tijuana into San Ysidro, in San Diego, he said. She did, and was allowed to cross into the U.S. under a one-year humanitarian parole.

“It all happened very fast,” Hahn said by phone with The News & Observer.

Within hours, Perez was at the airport in San Diego. She is expected to arrive Wednesday night at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Cole Miller, a founding director of Solidarity Now, said Dalia’s daughter, Ixcell, “is beside herself with joy.”

Born in the United States

Ixcell was born in the U.S. but left with her mother in 2010 and has lived in Mexico since. She was treated in Mexico for leukemia, but the cancer returned, and her doctor there told Dalia Perez that she needed to get Ixcell to the U.S. for more aggressive treatment.

The pair were both turned away from the border initially, but in June, Ixcell was allowed to enter the country. Her mother was again denied entry despite letters from the doctor in Mexico, Ixcell’s pediatric oncologist at Duke, U.S. Rep. David Price and a lawyer trying to help the family.

Perez assured border officials she had no plans to stay in the U.S., only to be here while Ixcell undergoes treatment, which is described as arduous and could last more than two years.

In her mother’s absence, volunteers from two local United Church of Christ congregations have been providing comfort and company to Ixcell during her hospital stays. She is able to leave the hospital for a few days at a time.

The case received international attention after a story appeared in The News & Observer on Monday.

Miller said it’s not clear what caused border officials to change course and allow Perez to join her daughter, but he said the timing is fortuitous.

“Ixcell goes back into the hospital tomorrow,” Miller said. “Dalia will be with her daughter for the next treatment.”

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.
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