Local News

Durham teen released from immigration custody shares story for first time

Posted August 29, 2016

— A teenager who spent months in federal custody under threat of deportation on Monday detailed his journey to the United States and his time in custody in his first public speech since his release.

Wildin David Guillen Acosta, 19, was a senior at Riverside High in Durham and on his way to school when federal immigration agents detained him in January. His deportation was temporarily halted in March.

Guillen Acosta has said he fled Honduras in 2014 because a gang member threatened to kill him. Speaking through a translator about the incident that brought him to the U.S., Acosta said Monday that he had visited a park with his youth group when the threat was made. He said the gang member told him not to leave his house at night because he was being watched, and the gang member later sent him threatening text messages.

Guillen Acosta said he told his aunt about the incident, and his parents, who had migrated to the United States several years earlier, decided to bring him to the country.

“I always say that every experience is another adventure that is put in your path of life,” Guillen Acosta said.

He said he traveled through Guatemala and Mexico before being detained at two Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities at the United States border. He eventually met up with his family and began attending school in Durham.

Guillen Acosta appeared before an immigration judge in Charlotte when he arrived in the U.S., but he never returned to immigration court for fear of deportation. On Monday, he said he was told by an attorney at the time that he would have been detained if he appeared in court.

That failure to appear, however, resulted in the deportation order that led to his arrest.

Guillen Acosta said he had been held in an immigration detention center for a month and a half when a Charlotte judge made the decision to deport him. He said the ruling occurred on a Friday, and he was told he would be deported on Sunday.

“It was really shocking because I had seen that others were deported months after,” he recalled. “Then I started crying, and my fellow immigrants consoled me. ‘Keep at it. Wherever you go, keep at it.’”

He thanked Democratic 1st District Congressman G.K. Butterfield and the Durham community for intervening to stop the deportation order, but he said he struggled emotionally during the following months in the Georgia detention center.

“That whole time when I was there, I asked God to help me. When you’re in those kind of places, there are many emotions you go through in your heart. Sometimes you could be laughing with your friends in detention, but later, after three hours, you could be very sad, and you could be crying because you start thinking about a lot of things, and you wonder why you had to go through that,” he said.

After five more months, Guillen Acosta said he received a letter approving his release, but he learned he had been given a $10,000 bond. Supporters set up a GoFundMe page and raised the bond money in less than two days.

He was released from custody Aug. 12.

#WildinIsFree #DurmPeoplePower <3

A video posted by Viridiana (@viridiananc) on

“Through the same door that I came in, I was going out,” he said. “At that point, I didn’t know what to do.”

Guillen Acosta said that he took a few weeks to spend time with his friends and family and is now in the process of seeking asylum. He said he must wait until January to return to Riverside High School to complete the three credits he needs to graduate, but he does not know what he will do in the meantime.

"We are ready to welcome him back," said school board member Natalie Beyer.

"I thank you from the bottom of my heart that I am going to be able to finish the three credits I am missing to graduate," Guillen Acosta said.

Before leaving the detention facility, he said he made a promise to his friends that he would help them get freedom as well.

“If I can become a strong voice in my community, I’m going to do it,” he said.


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  • Jeffrey Derry Aug 30, 2016
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    [u]he remains illegal. He dissed a Federal judge. There remains an active order of deportation on this adult. We are a country of laws not emotions. Deport.

  • Lin Park Aug 30, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Another point...you make it sound so easy to learn another language, but it is not.

    I understand English is a hard language to learn, but so is any other language if you are not "language-oriented" (as in hard to comprehend or understand or learn another language).

    I took two years of Spanish and I am still horrible at it. You even admitted you were not good at another language.

    It easier for some people to learn another language compared to someone else.

    My point is no matter where you are from you need to learn your country's language (i.e. American living in Germany, Hispanic living in America, etc.)

  • Lin Park Aug 30, 2016
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    What is your deal?

    If he wanted to be here, then do it the right way. People that abuse the system hurt those that are doing it the right way. Illegal immigrants put a bad name on other immigrants and are making those immigrants angry because they circumvented the system. If he was afraid he should have sought asylum.

    You have no idea how much this kid contributed to this country.

    Just because one illegal immigrant or maybe a few live productive lives does not mean all other illegal immigrants do. If they want to be here they need to go through the proper channels.

    Students in US already learn another language in high school and college. Most of the time students do not use it because they neither travel or are required to use it (few jobs require or recommend being bilingual). Just because your kid might speak another language does not mean they will get a better job than someone else. He still might be working at McDonald's at 30 yea

  • Rod Runner Aug 30, 2016
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    Did he contribute more to this country than you?... Most likely.

    BTW, did you know that there were undocumented immigrants that fought in the Vietnam War? I'm likely never to be able to do that for my country, and some did it for a country that likely didn't want them.

  • Rod Runner Aug 30, 2016
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    In order to learn some compassion, anyone here who feels this kid should just be sent away should watch the documentary made by a North Carolinian called 120 Days.

    It's about an undocumented man that lived in Raleigh that was pulled over one day and the RPD checked his status and led to his deportation in 120 days time.

    It shows that he and his family are productive members of society and were great citizens of Raleigh. Volunteering, helping kids. Living in an apartment in Raleigh that flooded all the time that no American would put up with.

    Watch it, change yourself. If it doesn't change your POV and feelings on "illegal" people, you probably should never interact with any human being again.

  • Rod Runner Aug 30, 2016
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    Perhaps people in the US need to be learning to speak a second or third language. I went to Taiwan this summer. There are people there that don't speak English, of course, but the random people that worked at stores or hotels or on the street that could speak and understand English did so better than I could ever speak Mandarin Chinese.

    Why do we like our country to be so dumbed down when compared to just about any other?

    How does it show that's a sad state for education if he almost graduated? I think that shows that education is working pretty well.

    Did you even know that we have public schools in the area that have Spanish Immersion and Mandarin immersion programs? They teach all the subjects in English and the other language. I wish my kids could be in that so they can get better jobs than your kids will ever get.

  • Rod Runner Aug 30, 2016
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    Speak the language? Which one? Cherokee? Pawnee? Creek? The US doesn't have an official language and English wasn't the first spoken here.

  • Charles Phillips Aug 30, 2016
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    did he break the law?..check
    Is he here illegally?...check
    send him home......check

  • Susan Olvera Aug 30, 2016
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    To be clear, I not condoning illegal immigration, I am condoning compassion and mercy.
    I learned so much during the naturalization process for my husband. This young man didn't have a chance of coming here legally. It would have cost him about 6 months worth of pay to even get an appointment at the Embassy in his native country. Then they would have denied him because he didn't have the equivalent of $5,000 American dollars in the bank. That's a year's salary for my father-in-law in Mexico, but it's at least two years in this man's native country.

    We absolutely *need* to know who is in this country. But we also need to understand our own immigration policies also encourage illegal immigration. We make it very hard for companies to secure work visas for willing workers and extremely hard for a person to immigrant here from a poor country. Most people want to come here legally, they don't want to hide and live in fear. Who would? It really is time for a realistic reform.

  • Susan Olvera Aug 30, 2016
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    Some poinsay many people may not understand about immigrating to the USA from a Latin American country, legally or illegal.

    My knowledge comes from my husband who came here I'm 2003 and was naturalized in 2013.

    1. ) The English language is very hard to learn. Extremely hard. Now couple that with also attending school and possibly working. My husband took two full years of night classes of ESL and still struggles. In fact, he's getting to start more English classes. This many speaks some English, but is not proficent and has trouble with verbs and also has a thick accent, a translator was best.

    2. ) Watch the documentary De Nadie. It used to be free on Netflix, but it's available in sections on youtube. You will see what he endured during his travel to get here. The train in the video goes through my husband's childhood town. This man is lucky he survived the trip, he was certainly robbed, beaten, and possibly raped. That's what it meant for him to be in this country.