Riverside High student graduates after months in immigration detention

Posted June 13

— Graduation came a year later than Wildin David Guillen Acosta expected, but the experience was sweeter because of what he went through to get to Tuesday's ceremony.

"I'm crying because I'm really happy in my heart," said Guillen Acosta, who was finishing up his senior year at Riverside High School in Durham last year when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him into custody.

Now 20, he came to the U.S. illegally in 2014 to escape gang violence in Honduras. He appeared before an immigration judge in Charlotte when he first arrived, but he never returned to immigration court for fear of deportation. That decision, ironically, prompted a deportation notice to be issued for him.

Guillen Acosta spent about eight months in detention centers before he was released on bond last August.

Laura Salazar and other Riverside High students and teachers raised awareness through protests and appeals while he was in custody.

"Something unfair had happened, and something needed to be done. So, eventually everyone knew about it, and it brought everyone together," said Salazar, who also graduated Tuesday.

"All I was really waiting for was to hear his name," she said of the graduation ceremony. "People got up, and they started clapping and everything, and it was just, it felt really, really good."

Guillen Acosta hugged his friend and thanked her for her support.

In response to the deportation controversy, an ICE spokesman said the agency was just following orders.

"ICE does not adjudicate cases. ICE is the law enforcement agency that executes the judicial order in instances where a federal immigration judge orders a person removed from the United States," the spokesman said. "ICE is awaiting the outcome of Mr. Acosta's appeal before the courts."

Guillen Acosta has a federal deportation hearing set for late August.

In the meantime, he plans to enroll at Durham Technical Community College to continue his education.

"Right now, I'm so happy. You know, it's a wonderful day," he said.


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  • Jeffrey Derry Jun 14, 7:33 p.m.
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    there remains a federal judicial order for removal - we are a country of laws not people clapping for a law violator at a high school commencement....

  • John Archer Jun 14, 5:33 p.m.
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    The page you cite says "But mere unlawful presence in the country is not a crime. It is a violation of federal immigration law to remain in the country without legal authorization, but this violation is punishable by civil penalties, not criminal. - See more at:". Being an "illegal alien" is NOT a crime. Crossing the border illegally is a crime. This young man should have applied for asylum and waited it out.

  • Eric Davis Jun 14, 2:41 p.m.
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    Thomas D. Homan, acting director at ICE, said "anyone in the country without authorization can be arrested and those who have been ordered deported by judges must be removed if laws are to have meaning."
    So it sounds like he broke the law. He committed an illegal act.Not a civil infraction as some have renamed it.

  • Michael Bawden Jun 14, 1:47 p.m.
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    How would he have died?

  • Ken Ackerman Jun 14, 1:38 p.m.
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    This young man had two choices, run or die. Which would you have chosen?

    Where do we draw the line at intolerance? Should speeders be locked up? That is breaking the law and has the potential to be much more harmful than this young man being here.

  • Dean Morron Jun 14, 11:50 a.m.
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    Mr John Archer, please get your facts straight before opening your mouth .... I'll gladly await your apology for your ignorance in the matter.

  • Johnny Priest Jun 14, 11:46 a.m.
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    What would happen if all these illegals went back to their country with the resolve that they're going to make it a better place for all to live. To give up and run for their own self interests rather than trying to make it better does no one any good.
    Besides he's the one that decided not to return to court when he was supposed to. If anyone misses a court date they can pretty much expect a warrant for their arrest to be issued. In that he entered illegally he really has no defense.

  • John Jones Jun 14, 11:09 a.m.
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    So that's what they call it now, a civil Is that what Loretta Lynch did when she told Comey to stop persueing charges against Queen Hillary? And to stop calling it an "INVESTIGATION" instead to call it a "MATTER" You liberal's have no clue and are the demise of this great country.

  • James Marley Jun 14, 7:48 a.m.
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    Still does not change the fact that he is an illegal alien. If he wishes to live in America then he needs to return to his country of origin and follow the proper immigration process like the millions of legal immigrants have done before him. This kid or any illegal should not be above the law.

  • Dean Morron Jun 14, 4:29 a.m.
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    If you are in this country illegally then indeed you are a criminal and should be treated as a fugitive from the law. It is time " ALL illegals " get returned to their homeland.