Recently, the news at Riverside High School has been dominated by a single name: Wildin David Guillen Acosta. Wildin is a senior at my high school who was detained as he was leaving his home to come to school on the morning of Jan. 28. He is being held at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia before his deportation Sunday.
He is a high school senior just like me who was working hard in his classes so he could graduate this year. Wildin has no criminal record. He also had an after school job to help support his family. He poses no threat to Riverside or to the Durham community. Wildin fled his native country of Honduras because local gang members threatened to take his life. If he is deported Sunday, he will be faced with those same gang members. Wildin is destined for the same fate as another North Carolina student with a similar situation who was killed by the same gang members he fled after he was deported back.
Many Riverside and Durham community members have spoken out against the immigrant raids and detainments that have been taking place in the Durham area as well as North Carolina. These raids have caused many immigrant students to stop attending school for fear of being detained in the same way Wildin was.
If Wildin is deported, school attendance will continue to drop, damaging the graduation rate and test scores that the Durham community has worked so hard to improve. Federal law states that immigration enforcement officers cannot come to schools, but at the same time, students are terrified to leave their homes, causing them to miss out on valuable education time.
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By law, schools are supposed to be a safe place for immigrant students because enforcement officers are prohibited from stepping foot on school ground. But is the law stating that schools are safe places empty when students are afraid to leave their homes because they may be detained on their way to school?
My classmates at Riverside and I are asking the Durham community to join us in supporting Wildin’s return to Riverside to finish his education. He and I both are three months away from graduating, but at this rate, he will have no chance to walk across the stage with our graduating class this June. Wildin has worked just as hard as I have to get to graduation day, and I believe he deserves to finish his education in the same way I will. We are asking community members not only to take notice of the empty desks where intelligent and hardworking students once sat, but to use their rights of free speech to speak up about the injustices happening in our community.
Overall, my fellow classmates and I are asking for Durham’s community members to join us in saying that education takes all precedence over legal statuses, races and ethnicities, and that all students and children, whether they came to this country legally or not, deserve a chance to pursue an education that will help them to contribute to our society. We are asking our community to join us in speaking up about how the detainment of children and students who are not harming our community is not right and how these detainments are hindering the education of many of our school’s and community’s students.
Wildin deserves to finish his high school education, and he needs Durham’s help to keep him from being deported to Honduras facing possible death. Riverside wants Wildin back. Now we need Durham to show that it wants Wildin back, too.
Morgan Whithaus lives in Durham.
Who to call
Please join us in urging Congressman G.K. Butterfield to release a statement calling for Wildin’s release. Butterfield can be reached at his Washington D.C. office at 202-225-3101.