A diverse coalition of around 35,000 social justice activists mobilized by the Moral Monday Movement rallied in downtown Raleigh on February, 2014. Photo taken from the Flickr account of Stephen Melkisethian
On the night of Thursday February 11, 2016, the administration of Durham Public Schools in North Carolina unanimously passed a resolution condemning the arrests and intended deportations of its students. Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has targeted Riverside High School, which has the highest proportion of Latino students in the Durham public school system (23%), as well as other high schools in the area, with at least six young people already being held in detention out of state.
— Immigration Post (@ImmigrationPost) February 13, 2016
One of the recent ICE victims is high schooler Wildin David Guillén-Acosta, who was arrested in front of his home as he was leaving for class on January 28. The new DHS guidelines announced over the New Year's holidays are specifically aimed at the large numbers of Central American children who made their way across the Mexican-U.S. border over the last two years. During this time, increased Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gang youth recruitment, extortion and murders have been reported. Young Central American immigrants, often fleeing from extreme levels of violence in their homeland, are recruitment targets for these notorious gangs. Wildin, who was a minor when he left Honduras in 2014, escaped their net — but that hasn't stopped ICE from arresting him.
Waiting outside as the board deliberated, Wildin's mother, Dilsia Acosta, speaking in Spanish and assisted in English by NC Dreamteam activist Viridiana Martínez, tearfully described her son's good character and college aspirations: “He's a good person with no bad habits who has never been in trouble.”
Wildin's distraught sister spoke of her brother's persecution by gangs in Honduras and his decision to cross the border two years ago to rejoin family members, explaining that if Wildin is sent back to Honduras, he faces “certain death….The 18th Street gang was threatening him. He was told to either join, or they would kill him.”
Wildin is currently being held at an ICE facility in Georgia, away from his family and supporters. There has been no response from DHS since the Jan 4 declaration iterating their firm decision to deport all the Central American kids who arrived last year.
There is a Move On petition to free the NC 6, with instructions for contacting DHS on behalf of Wildin and the five other North Carolina-based youth who now find themselves threatened with deportation.
Support for the students is growing. A vigil was held in Charlotte on February 12 for the teens who are in ICE prisons awaiting deportation, despite the fact that none of them have criminal records, all of them are now either 18 or 19 years old having crossed the border as minors, all have legitimate fears about returning to their country of origin (which should qualify them for refugee consideration), and all are, by DHS's own standards, low priority for arrest and deportation.
— John Davis (@JDsoundbite) February 13, 2016
Speaking on behalf of fellow teachers, Durham's Bryan Proffitt posted a video message on Facebook in which he said, “Every time you take our kids, the teachers will respond.” The latest vigil, this time for another student, Edwin Yonatan Alvarez-Galvez, took place in town of Cary on February 13.
This article was first published by Global Voices.