In the last seven days, the case of Wildin Acosta has taken multiple twists and turns.
Last Thursday, his advocates blitzed the media with the announcement that Acosta—the nineteen-year-old Riverside High School student who was taken into custody by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in late January—was scheduled to be deported on Sunday. Despite Congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield speaking out against Acosta's deportation, ICE didn't back down
. Then, on Sunday, ICE announced that it would delay his deportation
in order to give his lawyers time to prepare an asylum request.
So, what now? We called up Evelyn Smallwood, the Durham attorney representing Acosta, to try to make sense of where the hazy appeals process goes from here.
There are a couple of motions that have yet to be ruled on, correct?
Yes. So, we had asked an immigration judge to reopen Wildin's case so he could file for asylum. That request was denied last Friday. And since it happened late on Friday, we were unable to file an appeal right away, which was a problem because Wildin was scheduled to be deported on Sunday. Then, on Sunday, ICE assured Congressman Butterfield that it would keep him detained on Monday and Tuesday, which would be long enough for us to file an appeal.
But there is more to it than that.
The problem is, filing an appeal will not automatically stop ICE from deporting him. So we also had to file with the BIA [Board of Immigration Appeals] a request for a stay of his removal. Which essentially means ICE can't deport him while the BIA is reviewing his case. And that stay was granted yesterday.
What is the timeline from here?
The BIA prioritizes cases of people who are detained, like Wildin. So it could rule in a matter of months. But in the meantime, we are trying to get him released. And if he's released, then that process would take longer—as much as one or two years.
How would he be released from the jail?
We're in the process of making a request to ICE that it exercise prosecutorial discretion on his case and release him from detention while his BIA appeal is pending. They have denied all our requests previously. If they deny this one, we'll investigate other options, which may include taking the matter to federal court. It gets pretty legally complicated at that point.
What happens in two months if the BIA denies the appeal?
Then we would appeal that decision at the federal level, in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. And at that point we are in a situation again where ICE could deport him at any time.
What if the BIA finds in Wildin's favor?
Then the case is reopened and it goes back to an immigration judge for review.