Late Friday afternoon, about seventy-five protestors stalked the offices of Congressman G.K. Butterfield, on Chapel Hill Road in Durham. They chanted and bore signs saying “Education Not Deportation” and “Free Wildin,” a reference to Wildin David Guillen Acosta, the Durham teenager recently taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Acosta is reportedly scheduled to be deported on Sunday. Earlier in the week, Congressman David Price spoke out on the issue, questioning the detention of Acosta and other North Carolina teenagers recently taken by ICE. The protestors were demanding to hear from Butterfield as well.
Around 5 p.m., aides came down and released a statement from Butterfield in which he said he had spoken with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and ICE director Sarah Saldaña, as well as high-ranking White House officials, to “express my displeasure with the continued detention of Wildin Acosta and the other North Carolina teenagers currently in ICE detention.”
He added that he had requested that Acosta not be deported this Sunday to allow for him to present a request for asylum. He said he was assured a decision on Acosta’s situation would come before the end of the day.
It did. Late last night, Saldaña denied Acosta’s request for prosecutorial discretion and stated that ICE would be moving forward with his deportation.
This morning, Butterfield issued a release in response to last night’s decision.
Director Saldaña regretfully informed me that she will not use her executive authority to modify the administrative decision rendered on Mr. Acosta’s deportation proceedings late this afternoon. She informed me that this is a very complicated case and that she is not able to share all the details with me at this time. Director Saldaña further stated her level of review of the case is the fourth level authorized by law. I informed Director Saldaña that I am disappointed that the decision was released after 5:00 p.m. and that any appeal of the judge’s decision wouldn’t be able to take place until Monday morning, after Mr. Acosta’s scheduled deportation. Director Saldaña’s response was that the administrative decision was rendered by the Department of Justice and not the Department of Homeland Security. She expressed compassion for Wildin and his family, but her decision appears to be final.
I am very disappointed that the Director would not use her discretion in a decision that will have such a profound impact on Wildin, who fled violence in Honduras and sought refuge in the United States. I will continue to monitor Mr. Acosta’s case and I, once again, urged Director Sarah Saldaña to delay Wildin Acosta’s deportation in order to give him an opportunity to appeal this administrative decision.
Says Julia Mao, enforcement fellow at the National Immigration Project: “You know the system is rigged when ICE tries to fast-track a deportation when it is clear that the person was not given an opportunity to file an appeal or stay. It is clear that ICE Director Saldaña lives in a world where the only review that matters is a secret review stripped of due process.”