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ICYMI: Wildin Acosta’s Imminent Deportation Highlights Human Cost of Efforts to Deport Teenagers Back To Violence in Central America

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“I’m scared. I don’t want to go back. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of death”

Earlier this year we learned that the Obama administration, in an attempt to defer illegal border crossings, had started to target recently arrived Central American teenagers for deportation. Despite outcry from the community and increasing reports of violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, these cruel enforcement actions have not stopped. As Alicia Caldwell reports in her latest piece with the Associated Press, the administration is not backing down—despite the fact that they are deporting young people to violence and in many cases, death.

Although Caldwell’s piece focuses primarily on the heartbreaking case of Wildin Acosta— a North Carolina teen who faces imminent deportation as early as this Sunday—several other teenagers in North Carolina and elsewhere face the same fate as Wildin. Pedro Salmeron, whose deportation to El Salvador remains imminent, and Yefri Sorto, who was issued a last minute stay of deportation but could find his stay lifted at any moment, are just a few of the 800 teenagers who arrived as unaccompanied children and have been detained and/or deported by ICE since October.

All of these young people fled gang and state violence to seek safety and join their families in the United States.  Now, their very lives are being used to “send a message” to other young people in the Northern Triangle of Central America.  The Obama Administration is making a cruel and chilling calculation, putting the lives of these teens in danger once again.  At least 83 people have been murdered after being deported from the US to these countries since 2014.

As Caldwell’s piece notes, the administration’s response to cases like this is to insist, as Secretary Johnson told the AP, “We do not have, and cannot have, an open border so we have to have enforcement at the border. Are enforcement actions against families pleasant? No, of course not… We have to enforce the law.”

Yet, the November 2014 deportation guidelines that Secretary Johnson himself laid out include an exception to deportation priorities for people who “qualify for asylum or another form of relief under our laws or  . . . In the judgement of an immigration officer, [are] not a threat to the integrity of the immigration system or there are factors suggesting the alien should not be an enforcement priority.”  Someone fleeing gang violence in another country certainly meets many if not all of these criteria.  And despite the Administration’s assurances that these young people had due process the first time around, there are serious problems with the way their cases were originally handled.

In aggressively moving forward with these deportation cases DHS is not only ignoring its own deportation priorities memo, but common sense and humanity as well. This is embodied perfectly by Wildin Acosta’s own description of the situation waiting for him back in Honduras, “I’m scared. I don’t want to go back. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of death,” Acosta said. “They’ll kill you for a telephone. How is this possible?”

Read Alicia Caldwell’s full piece “Obama admin using unpopular raids to curb border crossings” here. Learn more about Wildin, Pedro and Yefri’s cases and what you can do to help here (in Spanish here).