Supporters of New Haven high school student Mario Aguilar say the fight is not over. The 18-year-old who had been in custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since September was granted asylum Monday and has been released from ICE custody.
“Now that he has gained his asylum, I am requesting, demanding, asking for ice to release him,” Edith Johnson, principal at Wilbur Cross High School, where Aguilar is a student, said before Aguilar was released.
She was part of a group of New Haven community members speaking Tuesday at city hall following the judge’s decision.
“This has been a very sort of difficult and emotional case,” said Dalia Fuleihan, Aguilar’s attorney. “We knew from the beginning that he deserved asylum but the way that the system is set up it was absolutely stacked against him.”
ICE has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision, and they had the choice to either hold or release Aguilar.
Aguilar was picked up by ICE in September while heading to court to answer DUI charges and the teen seemed to have disappeared.
“I ended up putting two and two together and called that county jail and when they confirmed that he was one of their inmates, that changed our whole community and our whole life,” said Mia Comulada Breuler, Aguilar’s counselor at Wilbur Cross High School.
It also changed the lives of his family. His cousin Odilia Aguilar said they grew up together in Guatemala and the holidays have been difficult.
“The family did not celebrate, it is not the same Christmas to see his absence in the house, knowing that he’s behind bars, in that cold jail,” said Aguilar.
She said they’re like brother and sister. Mario supported his family back home, and had dreams of studying and getting ahead for his family. She said his detention highlights a painful reality.
“Innocent people pay for a simple mistake, a little fault of ours, they make us spend days of suffering, that's not fair, that's the most painful,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar’s attorney said those DUI charges are still pending because he hasn’t been able to appear in the courtroom. As far as the classroom, his principal said he’s the type of student anyone would want in school.
“This is a young man who came to school every day, who worked hard, who wanted to learn English, wanted to learn about American culture,” said Johnson.
NBC Connecticut reached out to ICE but did not hear back on their plans for Aguilar’s case.
“We’re ringing in the new year with good news, but the fight continues until we have him home-home,” Comulada Breuler said before he was released.