The sister of 19-year-old Wildin Acosta is on the left. We withheld her name and obscured part of her face because ICE may come for her next. Her friend and interpreter, Viridiana Martinez, is on her right.
The sister of a Honduran teen who was grabbed two weeks ago by ICE agents addressed the Durham Public Schools Board of Education tearfully on Thursday afternoon.
"He is going to be deported to Honduras," she said, "and he will die. Please help us."
The heartbreaking plea was delivered shortly before the board unanimously passed a resolution
opposing the deportation of DPS students, in response to the Jan. 28 arrest of 19-year-old Wildin David Guillen Acosta, as he was warming up his car at home, to go to Riverside High School. He now awaits deportation in a detention center in Lumpkin, Georgia,
"Yesterday I spoke with him," his sister told the DPS board Thursday, "and he asked me to ask the teachers if you could send him his his homework, at the detention center where he is, so he can continue his studies, so he can graduate."
Wildin's sister wasn't the only one in the room crying by this point.
As David Hudnall reported in The INDY on Feb. 1:
Wildin arrived in the United States in June 2014. He was a minor at the time, seeking to escape gang violence in his home of Honduras. Arrested at the border, he was delivered to his parents, who live in Durham. After attending one immigration court date, Wildin was told by his lawyer that he stood little chance of asylum, and would likely be ordered to leave the country. He failed to attend subsequent court dates. He wanted to succeed in America, his parents say, and was working as a cook at a Durham restaurant in addition to pursuing his studies. He was set to graduate in May, and wanted to be an engineer. He was preparing to enroll at Durham Tech. Short of a reversal of his charges, that path is no longer available to Wildin.
Now, his family is terrified of what could face him back in Honduras.
"The 18th Street Gang was threatening him — he either joined, or they would take his life," his sister told the school board, through interpreter Viridiana Martinez. "And that is why he came to the United States, to seek refuge."
Afterward, in the hallway of the Fuller Administration Building, Martinez told the INDY
that they now realize following the lawyer's advice probably wasn't a good idea. Wildin has since retained a new attorney.
The incident at Riverside has served to terrorize other students from immigrant families, adversely affecting their attendance, and perhaps, their futures.
Ellen Holmes is a Spanish teacher and adviser for Destino Success at Riverside High School. Her homeroom is ESL.
She knows Wildin. Before the DPS resolution was passed Thursday, Holmes stepped to the podium and asked the school board to take a stand against ICE raids, and to protect the students.
"What I have noticed in the last few weeks is a very large drop in attendance," said Holmes. "The Monday after it happened, I was missing eight students in my homeroom, out of 23."
Dropouts have increased, out of fear, and the environment at the school is "very tense," she added.
"I spent my lunch period today trying to calm a very high-achieving student who has a bright future, who's going to go to college, but is so scared that she's going to come home, and her parents aren't going to be there. She should be focusing on her future — on all the scholarships she could choose from.
Instead, Holmes said, the students spent 45 minutes with her, crying as Holmes tried to tell her everything was going to be all right.
"But I don't know that," said Holmes.
The DPS board's action on Thursday follows a recent, similar resolution from Durham’s Human Relations Commission.