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Immigration Hearings For Central American Refugees Begin In South Side

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) –- Child immigrants have yet to arrive at Holy Family Institute, but many others are already here in our area.

An estimated three dozen young people from Central America are applying for asylum or special immigration status.

They're refugees from Central America, now living in our area, applying for asylum here in the U.S. Little kids and teenagers, like the young woman from Honduras KDKA's Andy Sheehan spoke to Wednesday.

Sheehan: "And you're applying for asylum?"
Woman: "Yes. We too."

Inside the Homeland Security building on the South Side, they appear before a video screen and an immigration judge who sits in Philadelphia.

Another woman is seeking legal status for herself and her three children, saying they have fled the drug cartels in Guatemala.

"It is very terrible in our country, " a woman explained with the help of a translator. "If you don't want the Mala -- they call the drug gangs the Mala. They will kill someone in your family. They threaten to kill someone in your family."

"Children here in Pittsburgh, they're receiving their day in court," Attorney Andy Wood said.

The refugees will stay here in our area, mostly with relatives, at least until the judge rules in their cases.

Wood is representing two girls from El Salvador who also say they have fled the drug gangs there.

But Congress is considering a measure to repeal a 2008 law guaranteeing refugees hearings and making deportations easier.

"I don't think anyone's saying everyone should stay no matter what," Woods said, "but if someone is a child and they're fleeing harm, they should at least get to go before an immigration judge."

One woman made an appeal of her own, saying, "We ask that people in this country have compassion because our children are fleeing what is an extremely dangerous situation, violence."

But for now, these kids will get their day in court, and perhaps asylum in the United States, while the debate about them rages on.

Holy Family Sisters Explain Decision To Shelter Immigrant Children (7/29/2014)
Sisters From El Salvador Flee To Pittsburgh To Escape Brutal Drug Cartels (7/18/2014)
Young Central American Refugees Finding Shelter At Local Charity, Sparking Controversy (7/16/14)
\More Reports by Andy Sheehan

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