Wildin Acosta will have another day in immigration court.
Earlier this week Acosta found out he was ordered to be deported back to his native Honduras, pending an appeal.
Acosta anticipated being at the Charlotte Immigration Court on Thursday for a hearing on his case but he said that hearing was canceled. That’s when Acosta learned that Judge V. Stuart Couch had already issued an order for his deportation. The order did not contain a deportation date but he has until Jan. 11 to file his appeal, Acosta said.
Acosta, who was flanked by his new wife, Angela Campos, along with Viridiana Martínez, director of Alerta Migratoria, and interpreter Jose Romero, held a press conference on Friday to update his status.
Acosta, 21, said he was surprised to receive the deportation ruling from Couch, especially since neither he nor his attorney was present when the judge issued the order.
“I didn’t expect this,” Acosta said. “After receiving this bad news, I decided to reach out to all the folks who had been helping me before. So here were are hoping to God that things will turn out for the better.”
Acosta said he had held out hope of receiving a reprieve following his October immigration court appearance. In that hearing, Acosta received a continuance on his case to give his new attorney, Nardine Guirguis, time to review his case file and mount a robust representation for him.
Since then, Acosta married Campos, an American citizen, on Nov. 8. Campos has filed a family petition for asylum on Acosta’s behalf. Marriage to a U.S. citizen no longer automatically confers citizenship on an immigrant. If Acosta is able to avoid deportation and can subsequently obtain a green card, he then will be able to apply for citizenship through the naturalization process.
“It’s scary,” Campos said. “You can’t relax, knowing that at any moment they can say he must be deported. I am just hoping everything turns out OK.”
Acosta was a student at Riverside High School – he has since graduated – when he was first detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for being in the country illegally. He was arrested on Jan. 28, 2016, as he left his home for school by ICE agents.
He said he was targeted for arrest after missing a missing a mandatory court appearance that dealt with his immigration status. He attended a court hearing on Dec. 17, 2014, but failed to show up for one in March 2015 on the advice of his first attorney, Acosta said.
Acosta’s arrest came as part of a nationwide campaign by ICE to locate and deport immigrants who had crossed the border illegally. He spent more than six months in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, before being 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 maintains that he fears returning to Honduras because of rampant gang violence.
“I am worried about being killed,” Acosta said. “I am worried that my public recognition back in Honduras will come back to haunt me. I am asking the community to step up and fight for me. I try to stay an optimist despite all of this. I put God first.”
Martínez said she hopes Acosta will not be deported.
“We have supported Wildin since his detention back in 2016,” Martinez said. “His case was mishandled, and there have been many more just like him. There are tons of hurdles that immigrants and refugees have to go through to navigate the system. Wildin is here today, but maybe he would be facing deportation if [his first attorneys] had properly handled his case.”