After missing weeks of school, Wildin Acosta wishes he didn’t have such a good excuse for not doing his homework: Homeland Security won’t let him. The 19-year-old high school senior, who migrated from Honduras in 2014, is well known at Riverside High in Durham, North Carolina, as an exemplary student, peer mentor, and aspiring engineer. But en route to his diploma, he got swept up in the latest crackdown on Central American refugee families.
Wildin’s teachers won’t let the border interrupt his schooling, though. So a delegation of Durham educators recently rallied to deliver his homework assignments to his detention center in Georgia. Though the delivery was blocked, evidently because they did not follow formal detainee mail protocols, the protesting teachers showed the authorities that their top student was still expected to walk with his class this June.
His mother, Dilsia Acosta, recalled watching in terror as plainclothes ICE officers stopped her son before he left the house for school on the morning of January 28 and took him away. Wildin’s family fears that if he is sent back to Honduras, local gangs will conscript or kill him.
“The gangs in Honduras, they have no limits,” Dilsia said through a translator. “They will go anywhere…they go into educational institutions, they go into any kind of building…. If they are preying on someone, then they will go after them and they will get them no matter what.”
In the United States, meanwhile, the family struggles against the ruthless pursuit by immigration authorities. Since January, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has launched a series of raids to round up the Central American asylum seekers whose initial claims had been rejected. So far, six Central American youths, aged 18 and 19, have been rounded up and placed in detention in Georgia, isolated from their families and from legal aid. According to a statement issued to The Nation by ICE, in accordance with Homeland Security’s latest “enforcement priorities” targeting recent migrants, Wildin “falls within an ICE priority category due to a final order of removal issued by an immigration judge” last March. The local advocacy group Alerta Migratoria contends that the youths’ legal cases have likely been botched by lack of adequate legal counsel, and complicated by the fact that they have aged into adulthood and are now subject to detention and deportation as adults, not “unaccompanied minors.” Activists are now trying to help them petition for “prosecutorial discretion,” which permits more time to pursue their humanitarian claims.