Wildin Guillen Acosta, the Honduran native who graduated from Riverside High School in June, will travel to Charlotte on Thursday in a final bid for political asylum.
If the immigration judge rules against Acosta, he will have 30 days to appeal or face an order of removal, which could lead to his deportation to Honduras.
Acosta is due in Charlotte Immigration Court at 9 a.m. Thursday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Acosta for being in the country illegally and missing a mandatory court appearance Jan. 28, 2016, as he left his Durham home for Riverside, where he was a senior.
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He spent more than six months in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, before he was released under a $10,000 bond.
Supporters said Acosta fears being sent back to Honduras because of gang violence he traveled to the U.S. to escape in 2014 as an unaccompanied minor.
“You can see it in his eyes,” said Ivan Almonte, a spokesman for Alerta Migratoria NC, a Durham-based organization that supports undocumented immigrants seeking asylum. “He can’t go back to Honduras. He deserves a better life.”
Almonte explained that Acosta had hoped to enroll in college after graduating in June but hasn’t been unable to do so because he never received a Social Security card or work permit, two items he should have gotten within two to three months after applying for asylum.
He can’t go back to Honduras. He deserves a better life.
Ivan Almonte, Alerta Migratoria NC
Alerta Migratoria has asked Durham’s elected officials and organizations such as the city’s Human Relations Commission to write letters of support for Acosta and to travel to Charlotte on Thursday to show solidarity.
Diane Standaert, chairwoman of the Durham Human Relations Commission, said the organization will send a letter to the immigration judge along with a resolution the commission adopted in February expressing concern about the “targeting of Durham immigrant youth by immigration authorities.”
“We hope the letter will be influential in the judge’s decision,” Standaert said. “We want to show that we care very much for Wildin and others in our community who find themselves in similar situations.”
Standaert said Commissioner Phil Seib will accompany Acosta and his family to Charlotte on Thursday in a show of support.
For more than a year, Acosta has enjoyed widespread support from members of the Durham community.
Immigration activists, teachers, fellow students, Durham city officials and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield demanded his release and a hearing to consider his request for asylum.
Acosta told immigration authorities he was fleeing gang violence in his native 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 a part of ICE’s nationwide campaign to locate and deport immigrants who crossed the border illegally.
Durham immigration case that have gotten attention
▪ Wendy Miranda Fernandez, 23, a Riverside High School graduate, was deported to her native El Salvador in May after her appeals for asylum were repeatedly denied. Fernandez had been seeking asylum in the U.S., since her arrival in the country in 2008.
▪ Jairo Garcia, 18, a Jordan High School student, was arrested March 16 and charged with larceny of a motor vehicle. He was booked into the Durham County Detention Facility.
Because of his age, clean record and the time he had already served, the charge was dismissed April 5. Garcia, however, remained in the Durham County jail and was eventually handed over to immigration officials. He is now detained in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. His mother has set up a crowdfunding page at https://www.gofundme.com/freejairo to help play his legal fees.
▪ Felipe de Jesus Molina Mendoza, 25, a Riverside High School graduate, is seeking political asylum after immigration authorities ordered him to leave the country in 2016.
He protested the order and is currently awaiting a ruling from the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Molina Mendoza, who had lived in the U.S., most of his life returned to Mexico to attend college but was harassed and threatened for being openly gay.
He first tried to re-enter the U.S., in 2013 but was deported. A year later, the 25-year-old restaurant server tried again, this time seeking political asylum as he crossed into California.
▪ Edwin Leonel Reyes-Guillen was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Joint Fugitive Task Force, of which ICE is a member, in March.
The task force was searching for a wanted murderer at Duke Manor apartments. It encountered Reyes-Guillen and arrested him after learning that he is in the country illegally.
Reyes-Guillen was detained but released after posting a $10,000 bond. He is now awaiting a December 2018 court date to determine whether he can remain in the country.