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An op-ed on deportations, unaccompanied minors and El Centro Hispano

Note: Viridiana Martínez has been among the many people advocating for the release of Wildin Acosta, a Riverside High School senior who was arrested in January by federal immigration authorities as he left for school.

Martínez has been an activist for immigrants' rights since at least 2010, when I wrote about her and the NC Dream Team for the INDY Citizen Awards. The NC Dream Team was a group of undocumented immigrants who were children when their parents brought them to the United States. They advocated for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would give Dreamers, as they're known, a path to citizenship. The legislation has yet to pass.

By Viridiana Martínez 

The Washington Post reported on December 23, 2015, that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was planning raids to deport everyone that entered the United States after January 1, 2014. 

Among this group are Central American refugee kids, commonly referred to as “unaccompanied minors,” who came to the United States seeking refuge from gangs, like the Mara Salvatrucha, and the governments failing to protect them. Immigration judges in North Carolina did not believe their plight merited asylum. Some of these minors did not show up to court because their attorneys said there was nothing they could do. Other attorneys even recommended that enrolling in school was a bad idea because it made it easier for ICE to locate them. Many were ordered to be deported.

No formal organization is organizing around legal cases for these minors in removal proceedings to publicly challenge the deterrence policy of the White House. As chaos spread throughout our community, few were willing to step up to the plate and do the work that needed to be done. Over the last few weeks we have witnessed the outpouring of support from teachers, school board members, elected officials and community members. 

Yet, the silence from some Latino and Latina leaders and their respective organizations is deafening. Even though they know what the needs of the community are, they have chosen the path of the white moderate who “... prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice …”

Aware of the situation and present at meetings to coordinate a response to the raids, El Centro Hispano has not officially supported ongoing efforts to secure the release of detained Central American refugee kids. In doing so, El Centro Hispano has failed the community, their funders and the very mission of why they started. We are asking El Centro Hispano and other Latino- and Latina-serving organizations to make substantial contributions to ensure the release of Central American refugee kids.

Their paid salaries and political legitimacy are due in large measure to the growth of the immigrant community in our state. It is not enough to show up for photo ops when our communities are under attack. As they say in Spanish, hechos, no palabras (“actions, not words”).

Furthermore, Alerta Migratoria NC was created as a response to the raids. This hotline and platform is filling a huge void in the community. Partly because it is needed but mainly because those of us running it, are willing to invest our energy, limited resources, and our love for the community in the community. We are seeking justice and are willing to work the long hours for it. We ask that Latino- and Latina-serving organizations including but not limited to El Centro Hispano of Durham acknowledge this and contribute to our work. 


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