This is a letter from Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association to Wildin Acosta and other youth detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who live in fear of deportation. You can add your own letter here.
How I wish I could be saying “Happy Graduation Day” to you today. I know that your heart is heavy that instead of putting on a cap and gown today, as your friends are doing, you are sitting in a deportation center waiting to hear if you can return to your grieving family in North Carolina.
I want you to know that you are an inspiration to so many of us, Wildin. You left the violence and danger of your home country seeking legal asylum here. You made your case to the authorities and worked hard in school while you were waiting for their decision. You were on your way to school when you were whisked away by those authorities, separated from your mom who is still out of her mind with fear for your safety. I’m a mom, so I can imagine how she feels.
But it is not fear you inspire, Wildin. It is courage and hope and determination you inspire. It took courage to come. You came because of hope. You showed determination in not wasting one second of the time you were here demonstrating to the world how much you had to give by studying hard, respecting the community and making friends, including winning the friendship of your teachers and the school support professionals who have organized to help free you.
We believe in you, Wildin. You have a strong case. You deserve to be free. You deserve the graduation day you worked so hard for. I know this is not a happy graduation day for you. But it is an important day because it inspires us, as you inspire us, to stand up for you, for Yefri, for Pedro, and all of the other detained youth and for all our students who are fighting to make something of their lives.
We love you, Wildin. Stay strong. We will stay strong for you.