Students walked out of two Triangle high schools today protesting the potential deportation of their classmates' fathers.
José and Darío Arroyo-Delgado came to the United States twenty years ago from Mexico. José lives in Durham and Darío in Garner.
Students at Durham's Hillside High School and Garner High School, where some of the brothers' nine children go to school, walked out their classes this morning in protest. Early this morning and again this afternoon, supporters gathered at the Durham office of Congressman G.K. Butterfield asking for his help securing their release.
According to the family, the brothers have been checking in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement regularly since their arrival in the country.
It was at a routine check-in ten days ago they were detained. They are currently being held at the Folkston Processing Center in Folkston, Georgia, which is operated by a private correctional and reentry company called GEO Group. According to the company's website, it operates seventy detention facilities, including the 780-capacity Folkston, which has not been accredited by the American Correctional Association.
Alerta Migratoria, an advocacy group assisting the family, says it received word early this morning that the brothers were being moved to Texas for removal this afternoon. An ICE spokesman, Bryan Cox, said he couldn't confirm if the men are scheduled for deportation prior to their removal "due to operational security." ICE's online detainee locator showed the men at Folkston as of two p.m. and a law firm representing the brothers said this afternoon they were still in Georgia.
"Both men were ordered removed by a federal immigration judge in October 2005. There were then extensive appeals. The Board of Immigration Appeals ultimately denied their last one earlier this month and ICE took them into custody at that time," Cox told the INDY
. "Both men have received all appropriate legal process before the federal courts and the courts have ruled they have no legal basis to remain in the country."
According to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, both men have accepted voluntary deportation in the past and have motions to reopen their immigration cases pending before the Board of Immigration appeals.
Together, the brothers have nine U.S. citizen children, including three considered medically fragile. One of Darío's son's has a pulmonary condition that requires weekly hospital visits.
"The Delgado Brothers have built a life in North Carolina, as the main breadwinners, to support their wives and children. The children of José and Darío Delgado are all U.S citizens. Three of the children have medical conditions and require constant monitoring and ongoing treatment. The lives of these children are at risk without the emotional and financial support of their fathers," Alerta Migratoria said in a statement.
At Hillside, about sixty students walked out of the school just before eleven a.m. with Stephanie Delgado, a tenth-grader and José Delgado's daughter. Although the group dwindled as students headed back to class, students and a few teachers joined Stephanie marching around the school's entrance and holding up signs.
James Finnegan brought his tenth-grade American history class out to participate in a real life lesson on civic engagement. He was unsure how many of his students personally know the Delgados, but said the class discussed the broader issue of immigration enforcement and agreed with the message of the protest.
"I let the class know the situation this morning at the beginning of class. I set it up sort of as an assignment. We study different tactics to create change and protest is one of them so I wanted to give them the opportunity to observe and learn," he said.
Via megaphone, Stephanie told the crowd that she has four younger siblings, and if her father, who works in landscaping, is deported she and her mother would have to support the family.
Stephanie Delgado, second from right, led Hillside High School classmates in a protest calling for ICE not to deport her father and his brother.
"It's been really tough," Stephanie said. "It feels very weird not having my dad because I used to see him all the time. I'm very close to him."
Stephanie said her family is in disbelief that José was detained at what he thought would be a routine check-in. She saw him last the day before that appointment.
"He's a very hard working person, an excellent friend and he's just my hero," she said.