Local News

Teachers send school work to Durham teen facing deportation

Posted February 19, 2016 5:25 p.m. EST

— Riverside High School teachers on Friday mailed school work and letters of encouragement to a Durham student who is being detained in Georgia by immigration officials.

Wildin "David" Guillen Acosta, 19, was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while on his way to Riverside High on Jan. 28. He has since moved through detention centers in Raleigh and South Carolina and is now being held in southern Georgia.

A native of Honduras, Guillen Acosta crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in 2014 to escape gang violence. He appeared before an immigration judge in Charlotte when he arrived in the U.S. two years ago, but he never returned to immigration court for fear of deportation. That decision, ironically, prompted a deportation notice to be issued for him last March.

Teachers, school board members and others, even complete strangers, gathered at a downtown plaza Friday to put together a package for Guillen Acosta, and some then walked to a nearby post office to mail it to him.

"He's one of my favorite kids," said math teacher Matt Miller, who wrote a letter to President Barack Obama advocating for the teen's release and another to his student.

"We're doing everything we can to get you out," Miller said, reading from the letter to Guillen Acosta.

"He's a person. We're people. We should care about each other," Alesia Ashby said when asked why she was supporting Guillen Acosta.

His teachers say their classrooms haven't been the same since he left. For one thing, other students are now staying home for fear they could also be taken into custody.

"I was missing missing eight out of 23 students, which is a very large number," said Ellen Holmes, a foreign language teacher who advises a club to which Guillen Acosta belongs.

At least six young people from North Carolina have been picked up by ICE agents in an enforcement effort targeting the thousands of unaccompanied minors and mothers with small children who illegally entered the U.S. since 2014.

The Durham Human Relations Commission, the Durham City Council and the Durham County Board of Education have all backed resolutions calling for ICE to release the area teens to to halt the raids used to pick them up.

Immigration officials said they are simply following court orders and the priorities established in November by the Obama administration.

There was no word on when Guillen Acosta will be deported, but officials said he would have access to the teachers' package.