On Friday afternoon, eighteen-year-old Wildin David Guillen Acosta called his sister, Katherin, from the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. As has been widely reported, the Riverside High School student and undocumented immigrant had been picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on January 28 and is now awaiting deportation proceedings.Katherin had just walked into the down- town Durham post office when she received her brother’s call. Teachers and activists gathered around to hear Acosta’s voice through a muf- fled connection garbled by the speakerphone. They had marched from CCB Plaza to the post office chant- ing “Education not deporta- tion!” with posters bearing the hashtag #FREEWILDIN and care packages, including books. On the packing label, Riverside teacher Ellen Holmes scribbled Acosta’s alien number under his name, to make sure he gets the homework inside.
"Te extraño," Holmes told him over the phone. I miss you. Acosta thanked her for sending his books. Determined to graduate by June, on schedule, Acosta began asking for his homework last week.
Acosta was assigned an alien number by ICE after he crossed the border in the summer of 2014, part of a wave of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. At a Durham Human Relations Committee meeting earlier this month, Acosta's mother, Dilsia, said that if he is deported to Honduras, he will be killed by gangs that have already threatened his life.
Earlier in January, another Riverside student was deported to Central America. No one knew much about her, activists say, because she was in the United States alone.
Nearly a third of Riverside's Latino students stopped showing up to school after ICE took Acosta. "I'd go so far to say they may be experiencing PTSD," Holmes says. She directs the student club Destino Success, of which Acosta was a leader. "The sad thing is that I can't promise them it will be OK."
"What does it mean for us as human beings to say yes to policies and programs that kidnap people?" asks Sendolo Diaminah, a member of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, which earlier this month passed a resolution condemning the deportation of students. "[This country has laws] to make sure a whole group of people live in fear in order to exploit them. That was what slavery was about. I'm really glad, as a school board, we're saying no to that."
More than twenty-five people—activists, teachers, family, and news crews—packed the post office. Holmes paid $23.38 for priority mail with tracking. Acosta should have received his homework by the time you read this.