United States

Community Fights to Bring Home New Haven Teen Detained by ICE

A community is fighting to bring home a New Haven teenager. The Wilbur Cross High School student was detained by ICE last month while on his way to court for a DUI charge.

Students, school leaders and lawmakers rallied for 18-year-old Mario Aguilar's release on Friday night.

Protesters said the teen poses no danger to the public and is not a flight risk. They said while his case goes through the court system, he should be allowed back at school.

Chants echoed down Church Street as a large crowd gathered outside New Haven City Hall. Many held signs showing the face of Aguilar.

Aguilar has been in ICE custody in Massachusetts for more than a month.

"One of my kids isn't in school and should be. That's the bottom line," said Wilbur Cross High School Principal Edith Johnson.

Johnson said Aguilar worked 30 hours a week and came to school every day and that they want him back there learning.

"I don't care about their status. I want my kids to be in school and get their education," Johnson added.

ICE said the teen, who is from Guatemala, was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol near the southwest border in March of last year and was issued a notice to appear, but never did.

Aguilar's legal counsel said he came to the U.S. when he was 16 to escape a violent gang who hurt and threatened him.

Earlier this year, police charged Aguilar with a DUI following a crash, something his attorney disputes.

Aguilar was on his way to court for it when ICE took him into custody.

"It's not only adults that can make a change. Students do, too, that's why we're here," said Daniel Martinez, a Wilbur Cross High School senior.

Since then, many have come to the teen's defense, including fellow students. All of them are pushing for his release and for a claim of asylum.

"I hope that it opens people's eyes that this is serious and that something has to happen to change," Martinez added.

"We're going to ICE. We're going to pound their door. We'll go to court and pound on their doors, too, and we'll do whatever we can to free Mario," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Aguilar's attorney said the school has been sending the teen school work, but that it's a difficult situation. ICE said he'll remain in custody pending removal proceedings.

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