Barry Saunders

Saunders: Why we should denounce the action of immigration officials

Mother hopes feds will reconsider deporting her son

VIDEO: Dilsia Acosta on Tuesday after the Durham Human Relations Commission approved a resolution that asks federal immigration officials to reconsider the deportation of her son, Wildin David Guillen Acosta, an 18-year-old senior at Riverside Hig
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VIDEO: Dilsia Acosta on Tuesday after the Durham Human Relations Commission approved a resolution that asks federal immigration officials to reconsider the deportation of her son, Wildin David Guillen Acosta, an 18-year-old senior at Riverside Hig

Great day in the morning! I am so glad the woman standing in front of the Durham Human Relations Commission on Tuesday night didn’t speak English and required the commission’s comments to her – and hers to it – to be filtered through a translator.

I’m scared that if Dilsia Acosta had understood what commission member Ricky Hart was saying, she’d have bounded across the table and socked him in the eye.

I almost wanted to.

Acosta mournfully told how her son, Wildin David Guillen Acosta, was grabbed by two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as he left home for school one cold January morning. She’d already departed for her job doing laundry and her husband was at home.

He, Acosta has said in a previous interview, watched from the apartment through parted curtains as the ICE officers – “la migra,” as they’re known in Spanish – tossed the kid in the car and drove away. The father dared not interfere, because he was afraid they’d haul him away, too.

On Tuesday night, she was pleading with the Durham HRC to issue a resolution – a purely symbolic expression of outrage, really – denouncing ICE’s action, when Hart spoke up.

“This may rub some people the wrong way,” he prefaced his remarks, which rubbed some people the wrong way.

He proceeded to say then – and again when I spoke with him Wednesday – that he thinks the immigration issue is usurping attention from the issue of homicides in Durham.

This is one immigration issue that you have no impact on, that has nothing to do with the city. Why are we putting emphasis on this?

Ricky Hart, Durham Human Relations Commission member

“If the federal government comes and adjudges he’s due for deportation, why would we question a federal agency? That’s totally outside our purview,” Hart said. “What we should be doing is concentrating on the issue of these homicides going on in Durham. ... This is one immigration issue that you have no impact on, that has nothing to do with the city. Why are we putting emphasis on this?”

But homes, I asked, can’t you be concerned at the same time about our children being killed and someone else’s children being taken away?

“You can be ... but my thing is where are you going to have a better impact? Are you going to have any impact on this young man’s situation? Why,” Hart asked, “would we challenge a federal agency for doing their job?”

Oh, I don’t know: Perhaps we challenge it because neither the federal government nor President Obama is infallible and this country has been known to impose unfair, heartless laws. Allowing families to be ripped apart so capriciously will not be a part of Obama’s legacy that his supporters or he will be able to look back fondly upon.

How about we challenge it because we have a right – nay, a duty – to oppose those laws?

Or how about the universality of all people, and how a heartbroken mother is someone to whom we all should be able to relate?

If we don’t speak up for others, who’s going to speak up when they come for us?

Finally, how about this: If we don’t speak up for others, who’s going to speak up when they come for us?

You’re right: there won’t be anyone left to speak up.

Hart said that even bringing the issue to the HRC at the last minute sets a bad precedent. “When these families of people who’ve been murdered come to the HRC, are you going to issue a resolution for them, are you going to do a resolution for those children who are missing, when their parents come up and ask? You can’t turn them away, right? You didn’t turn this family away.”

Say what?

Hart ought to be lauded for wanting to focus attention on the violence that seemingly has some Bull City neighborhoods’ streets running red with blood, but that concern shouldn’t preempt empathy for a mother whose young ’un was snatched off the street and “disappeared” in a way you’d associate with Stalinist Russia.

The resolution ultimately passed. What does that mean to the judge who decides whether to send him back to Honduras?

Nothing.

What does it mean to the people of Durham?

Just that they’re represented by a commission with a heart.

If that doesn’t count for something to ICE, it should to the rest of us.

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