Wildin David Guillen Acosta strolled up to C.C.B. Plaza on Monday afternoon with a nervous swagger. While many of his peers were finishing their first day back at Riverside High School, he was here to face the cameras—and the community that fought so hard to stave off his deportation. He met those who arrived early with a handshake and a steady, "Hello, my name is David."
The nineteen-year-old was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on January 28; he was detained for the next six months before ICE, under mounting political pressure, released him on a $10,000 bond.
But Acosta's journey didn't start there. It began two years earlier, he told the media and fifty gathered supporters Monday night, in his native Honduras, which was rife with gang violence. One day he was in a park, he said, where he tried to talk to another young man about God. That man threatened his life. Two days later, the man sent him an ominous text; Acosta wasn't sure how he'd gotten his number. It was then that he made plans to follow his parents—who'd left years earlier, placing him in the care of his older brother—to the United States.
He fled the country to escape violence—one of countless thousands of young people who've left Central America in recent years for the same reason. But, after he missed an immigration court hearing in the U.S.—owing to what he described as a miscommunication—a federal judge issued a deportation order in March 2015. Ten months later, he was detained by federal officials and shipped off to a private prison in Georgia, even though he had no criminal record.
In March, Acosta was scheduled for deportation. But then the Board of Immigration Appeals granted him an eleventh-hour stay. Four long months later, stretches of which he reportedly spent in solitary confinement, he finally got the news: the BIA would reopen his case. His supporters immediately mounted a campaign to secure his release from immigration jail. Earlier this month, an immigration judge freed him (after his supporters raised his bond money).
Since his release, Acosta has applied for asylum. He'd also hoped to go back to Riverside High and complete the three credits he needs to graduate. But he'd been told he couldn't enroll until January. Not so, Natalie Beyer, the vice chairwoman of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, told him Monday evening. He could enroll the very next day.
A smile crept across his face. "Thank you," he said through a translator. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."