The court hearing to decide the fate of former Riverside High School student Wildin Acosta’s U.S. asylum status has been continued until Dec. 5.
Acosta’s case appeared in the Charlotte Immigration Court before Judge V. Stuart Couch at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. The immigration-focused activist organization Alerta Migratoria NC wrote in an email Monday that Couch denied 81.6 percent of asylum cases during fiscal years 2011 through 2016.
But a spokeswoman for Alerta Migratoria NC said Tuesday that the decision for a continuance will allow Acosta’s new representation, immigration attorney Nardine Guirguis, the appropriate amount of time to review Acosta’s case as needed to best represent the new client.
During a Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday from the Alerta Migratoria NC office, Acosta said he was thankful to have received the extension. He also said he thought the number of supporters who traveled to Charlotte to be with him in court was beneficial for him.
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“I am thankful to the community of Durham and my teachers for supporting me,” Acosta said. “I know it is because of this community that Judge Couch gave me a two-month extension. That’s the date my fate will be decided.”
Acosta said he fears returning to his native Honduras because of rampant gang violence.
“If I am deported, I know they would kill me,” Acosta said.
Last spring, Guirguis represented Wendy Fernandez, another former Riverside High School student, in her asylum proceedings. Fernandez’s highly publicized plight before the courts ended with her deportation back to her country of origin, El Salvador.
If ruled against in December, Acosta will have 30 days to appeal or face an order of removal, which could lead to his deportation to Honduras.
An outspoken opponent of current U.S. deportation policy, Acosta’s pending legal case and subsequent wait for a ruling on the legality of his stay in the U.S., have propelled him into the national spotlight.
He has received support from members of the larger Durham community, including teachers, fellow students, Durham city officials and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who sought his release and a hearing to consider his request for asylum.
“Wildin was supported by groups of friends, classmates, teachers, organizers, and members of the church and faith community,” representatives of Alerta Migratoria NC wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Wildin, along with team members, are still processing (Tuesday’s) events and what led up to this outcome.”
As he left his home for school on Jan. 28, 2016, Acosta was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for being in the country illegally and missing a mandatory court appearance.
After spending more than six months in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, he was released on $10,000 bail.
Acosta told immigration authorities he was fleeing gang violence in Honduras when he was stopped at the Texas border in 2014.
He attended a court hearing on Dec. 17, 2014, but failed to show up for one in March 2015.
Acosta’s arrest came as part of a nationwide campaign by ICE to locate and deport immigrants who had crossed the border illegally.