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NEA president to detained student: I wish I could say happy graduation day

Educators join national call-in day to demand a halt to ICE raids and release of detained students

WASHINGTON - June 08, 2016 -

The President of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen García, wrote a letter to Wildin David Guillen Acosta and other youth detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), wishing she could say happy graduation day to him and thanking him for inspiring a movement that is shedding light on the impact the raids are having on students, educators and communities. Today would have been Wildin’s graduation day.

President Eskelsen García wrote the letter to Wildin to coincide with a national call-in day to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to demand a halt to the Immigration and Customs raids that are separating families and detaining youth – many of whom are our students – and to release those students to their families so they can continue to pursue their education.

Below is an excerpt from Lily’s letter to Wildin: 

                  Querido Wildin, 
  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…
  …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.

Wildin was on his way to school when Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained him. The high school student had fled torture, mass kidnapping, murder and extreme poverty in his home country in Central America. He came to the United States for a chance at the American dream — and to protect his safety. That dream is now derailed as threats of deportation loom. Wildin’s classmates and teacher also traveled to Washington in May to meet with ICE officials and demand an end to the ICE raids as well as his and other detained students’ release from detention. This is a video of their visit to Washington.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez  202-822-7823,


It’s time to stop detaining & deporting our students.

I wish I could be saying "Happy Graduation Day" to Wildin today. Instead this

No community should fear losing its children.