Students Fight Classmate’s Deportation
By Elise Adams
In early 2016 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stepped up enforcement raids, largely targeting Central American families. Such raids are highly problematic given that many of those targeted for removal may have legitimate asylum claims and have never had legal representation. Among those scooped up by ICE: a high school senior who fled gang violence and persecution in Honduras, Wildin Acosta.
The 19-year-old had just started his final semester of high school at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina when he was arrested on before school the morning of January 28th. He had been living with family and attending school since 2014 when he fled his hometown of Olancho, Honduras in fear of his life. Now he’s being held in Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center and faces deportation.
Students from Riverside High School have launched their own social media campaign in hopes of raising awareness about Acosta’s detainment. The hashtags #FreeWildin #RHSWantsWildinBack and #EducationNotDeportation have been trending topics on twitter, where students are demanding their classmate back.
Four of Acosta’s classmates and one of his teachers from Riverside High School went to Capitol Hill in May to speak with ICE authorities about releasing Acosta, who has no criminal record.
“I just wanted to express how devastating it’s been to the staff and the families and the students here at Riverside High School to have Wildin detained… It’s creating absences and dropouts in our schools. It’s creating just a huge feeling of fear inside our school and in our community. And I’m asking that we stop taking children and we return them to their families,” Ellen Holmes, Spanish teacher at Riverside High School told Democracy Now.
Congressman G. K. Butterfield recently visited Acosta in the Stewart Detention Center where he spoke with Acosta about his detainment. “After speaking with Wildin and the advocates, I now have a deeper appreciation for how complex and emotional our immigration system can be for everyone involved,” Butterfield said.
Acosta hopes to graduate high school from Riverside and go to college to become an engineer. He is still waiting for a decision on his appeal in the Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals.