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DURHAM CITY OF DURHAM [Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, Human Relations Division 301 CITY HALL PLAZA | DURHAM, NC 27701 Physical Address: GOLDEN BELT CENTER | 807 EAST MAIN STREET, SUITE 2-200 | DURHAM, NC27701 919.560.4107 | F919.560.1790 ‘worn. 1869 The Honorable V. Stuart Couch, Immigration Judge United States Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review United States Immigration Court 5701 Executive Center Dr., Suite 400 Charlotte, NC 28212 ‘August 30, 2017 Dear Judge Couch: | am sending you this letter in my capacity as the Chair of the Human Relations Commission for the City of Durham. The Human Relations Commission is an all-volunteer, 17-member board with a diverse representation that matches the demographic composition of our city. We are appointed by the Durham City Council to promote positive human relations in the city of Durham. In February 2016, the Durham Human Relations Commission passed a resolution, enclosed in full, stating that “If Wildin is deported, this would go against our humanitarian principles and place his life in grave danger.” Our community is aware of the dangers of the place from which Wildin fled, and which he specifically faces.’ In a March 2017 our local paper reported: ‘A devout evangelical Christian, Acosta began preaching in parks to drug addicts. A gang leader strolled up and told him to leave the men alone. “He told me to leave and that he had it out for me,” Acosta says, “that he was going to find where | lived and search for me until | was killed.”" Similarly, at a widely-attended and widely-covered press conference in our city center, Wildin recounted even more details of the threat from the angered ganger members urged him to stop his evangelizing. He was told to leave, or “Otherwise, I'm going to kill you, or I’m going to get someone else to kill you. ‘Don’t leave the house at night because I’m going to be looking at you.’ Wildin then recounted that he received a text message two days later from the guy who was threatening him, but he doesn’t know how he got his phone number." Durham — Where Greot Things Hoppen ‘Our community is aware that these threats came from two specific gangs - Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street Gang (M-18).” The threat of these two gangs In Honduras and surrounding countries were the specific focus of an August 2016 report by the Congressional Research Service.” Furthermore, the police force in Honduras is incapable of providing the protection from these criminal organizations that Wildin and so many like him require. It has been well-documented that in Honduras, “the government institutions entrusted to uphold law and order—the police and military— have been corrupted and infiltrated by the criminal gangs and narcotic traffickers.” Wildin and other youth like him simply do not stand a chance against these circumstances. This alone makes Wildin’s case deserving of asylum. Here, for Wildin, this fear is not a generalized, but one that is grounded in specific and targeted threats to him, Despite all the obstacles he has faced, Wildin has graduated from high school and is an active member of our community. In fact, in December 2016, he returned to our Commission to personally thank us for the support we provided to him. We are so thankful to have him home here in Durham and look forward to watching him thrive and reach his full potential. We respectfully request that you grant Wildin asylum and let him return home to Durham, which is consistent with the express humanitarian principles of our city Durham as reflected here. Sincerely, Diane Standaert Chair, Durham Human Relations Commission ' Our city has been aware at least as far back as 2014, as stated in the Durham City Council's Resolution Concerning Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Durham. In this resolution, the City Council noted “that gang and drug trafficking violence has driven Honduras’ murder rate to the highest in the world,” and that children were fleeing to the U.S. from countries such as Honduras “largely as a result of rising rates of poverty and violence in their home countries.” We are also aware of public statements by our Congressman G.K. Butterfield that "Wildin Acosta and other young people like him fled extreme violence and mayhem in Central America in search of refuge and a better life in the United States.” ' Victoria Bouloubasis, Indy Week, “Wildin Acosta’s Detention Sparked a Community Into ‘Action, But He’s Still Not Free,” detention-sparked-a-community-into-action-but-hes-still-not-free/Content?oid-5623022 “ News and Observer, “Teen Wildin Acosta describes 6 months in federal detention,” “ ABCNews, “NC Community in Months-Long Battle to Bring Home Undocumented Teen, Despite Election-Year Controversy,” battle-bring-home-undocumented/story?id=41375119 “ Clare Ribando Seelke, “Gangs in Central America,” Congressional Research Service, available at pdf “\Carvajal, Roger A., “Violence in Honduras: an analysis of the failure in public security and the state’s response to criminality.” (Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School)