A series of staged federal arrests were made Monday at the Trade and Tryon streets intersection, as part of a protests against ongoing efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to round up teens living illegally in the country.
Organizers of the dramatization, including Action NC, are seeking greater public support for six North Carolina immigrant teens (known as the NC6), who were arrested this year as part of stepped up immigration enforcement against recently arrived undocumented immigrants.
Supporters of the NC6 are asking that the teens be released into the custody of their parents while they make new bids to stay legally in the country.
Hector Vaca of Action NC said the dramatization was intended to show the “terror” immigrant families endure when ICE agents make arrests at their homes, on the job, or while children are on their way to school.
Two Charlotte teens are part of the NC6, Yefri Sorto-Hernandez and Pedro Arturo Salmeron, who were arrested in January and are being held at a detention facility in Georgia. The teens came from El Salvador in 2014 as part of a wave of 68,000 Central American children who crossed into the U.S. while fleeing gang violence. El Salvador has one of the world’s highest murder rates.
The Monday protest, which included about 30 participants, was the latest in a series of events staged around the state the past two months to raise awareness of the six teens, who could be deported at any time.
ICE officials have conducted the stepped-up arrests as part of a federal crackdown on children who came into the country illegally and did not prove in immigration court that they qualified for asylum. Families for the NC6 blame bad legal advice for the deportation orders and want another chance to make cases for their children.
This weekend, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Raleigh announced that he had arranged with ICE for one of the six teens – Wilden Acosta of Durham – to remain in the country until the legal process can take its course.
The fate of the two Charlotte teens remains up in the air, says Vaca, who is urging elected officials to contact ICE on the teens’ behalf.