Durham News

U.S. Rep. Butterfield seeks to halt deportation of 2nd Durham teen

An aide to U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield said the congressman planned to intervene Thursday night on behalf of a second Durham high school student slated for deportation.

Ingrid Portillo, a student at the School for Creative Studies, was scheduled to be returned to her native El Salvador on Thursday night, according to a group that has been working for her release.

She was detained on her way to school May 17 and has been at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga. Her family went public Wednesday, as the deadline approached.

“We have been working closely with ICE and DHS trying to halt deportation,” Meaghan Lynch, a spokeswoman for Butterfield, said Thursday night. The congressman was writing a letter, she said, but could not offer further details.

Portillo’s family was afraid to come forward until this week, said Anca Stefan, an English teacher at Portillo’s school who said the teenager would now be a senior.

“At the beginning of school, the kids were kind of whispering about it, but wouldn’t tell me about it,” Stefan said.

ESL teacher Debbie Granger taught Portillo last year and visited her in July. She brought the teen an English Bible, and they spoke by phone across a partition.

“Ingrid to me is just an amazing young lady,” Granger said. “She is incredibly resilient.”

“Obviously she was worried,” Granger said. “You could see she was worried about what was going to happen to her. She was wondering, ‘What will happen? What will happen?”

Granger said she wanted to respect the family’s privacy about why Portillo left El Salvador.

“I will say knowing what I do know (that) I’m concerned that she has to go back,” she said.

El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and the U.S. Department of State updated the Travel Warning for El Salvador in January to notify U.S. citizens about travel safety concerns and the increase in security incidents, according to a March report by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, a part of the department.

In 2015, authorities recorded 6,657 killings, a 69.8 percent percent increase from the 3,921 in 2014, according to the report, which blamed the rise on the end of a controversial 2012 truce between local gangs.

Rape remains a serious concern, the report said.

Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, previously helped obtain the release of Wildin Acosta, 19, who was taken into custody by immigration agents Jan. 28 as he left his Durham home for school.

Acosta told immigration authorities he was fleeing gang violence in his native Honduras when he was stopped at the Texas border in 2014.

He 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.

Butterfield said Acosta’s release would allow him to present his case for asylum.

Schultz: 919-829-8950

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