Photo courtesy: The Herald Sun.

When we think about youth and immigration most recently we think about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that is now being debated in Congress.  We rallied together to raise money for undocumented young people who live in Charlotte, by contributing money through the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy toward the $495 federal fee, so they could renew their DACA status by the October deadline.

But there is another story evolving, one which involves a different group of young people wishing to remain in the United States: Unaccompanied Minors.  These young people, too, want to benefit from a good education with the hope of contributing to the economy as they mature.  They are seeking asylum from their homeland and a safe place to live.  But perhaps you do not know what their journey is like.

Wildin Acosta, a student at Riverside High School in Durham, is one of those unaccompanied minors seeking asylum from his homeland.  He was arrested on his way to high school in January 2017.  His appeal will be heard in Charlotte on December 6, 2017. 

Acosta, now 19, told immigration authorities he was fleeing gang violence in his native Honduras when he was stopped at the Texas border in 2014. He thought things would be easier at the U.S. border, but he found a different reception. He was immediately placed in the “ICE box,” an expression based on the acronym for the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement, the federal agency that enforces immigration laws; but, the term has also been used to describe the frigid temperatures in several of the places where he was held after arriving in the United States.  Acosta was placed in a freezing “ICE Box” for eight days without sunlight. Then he said he was “sent to another place.”  “It was still very cold. There were many of us,” he said. “I had to sleep on the floor for 15 days.”

Wildin Acosta attended a court hearing on Dec. 17, 2014, but failed to show up for one in March, 2015. On March 30, 2015, a deportation order was issued for him, but Acosta’s case for asylum was never heard on its merits.  ICE agents arrested Acosta on Jan. 28, 2017 as he left his Durham home for Riverside High School, where he was a senior. He spent more than six months in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, before he was released under a $10,000 bond.  Acosta said the six months since his arrest were filled with instances of racism, partly as a consequence of a racial hierarchy with white officers, African-American employees and largely Hispanic detainees. He talked about finding worms in his food three times and being placed in solitary confinement because he helped a friend write a letter to his English-speaking girlfriend.

Since then, immigration activists, teachers, fellow students, Durham city officials and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield have called for his release and for a new hearing to consider his request for asylum.  Children who appear in immigration court by themselves have about a 7 percent chance of a successful outcome. If they’re represented by counsel, they have about a 70 percent chance, but in Charlotte, those chances are usually much lower.

As December 6, 2017 approaches, please be on the lookout for additional ways to be involved in this case.

wildin4CharlotteCourthouse

For more details on Wildin’s story, click here.