Supporters demand New Haven teen's release from ICE custody

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Supporters of a New Haven high school student who is currently in ICE custody rallied Friday to demand his release.

Mario Aguilar, 18, was taken into custody last month at the Milford Courthouse. He was answering charges in an August car crash that he was involved in.

"Some of the kids went to the teachers and they said, 'We don't know where Mario is, we're really worried about him,'" said Kica Matos, an immigrant rights activist in New Haven. She says in her 17 years as an activist, this is the first case of a high school student being detained that she has seen.

"There's a deep sense of outrage, a sense that this is so deeply immoral," she added.

Rally organizers say Aguilar fled gang violence in his native Guatemala when he was 16 years old, settling in New Haven with his brother. He enrolled in school and worked to support himself and send money home to his family.

"He belongs in our community," said Matos. "He belongs in our classrooms, he belongs in our country. This is a kid who has tried to do right. Even now in detention center, his teachers are sending him materials so he can continue his studies."

Wilbur Cross High School Principal Edith Johnson says more than 400 students and staff have sent postcards and letters to the immigration judge calling for his release while his case is pending.

"I couldn't tell you exactly how many students are documented or undocumented because in reality, I really don't care. They're my kids and my job is to educate them," Johnson said. "He's a good kid. He made a mistake and he needs to be back in school. He's part of our Wilbur Cross community."

In a statement, an ICE spokesperson said in part, "In March 2018, Aguilar-Castanon was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol near the southwest border, issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge and released. He failed to appear in immigration court ... Aguilar-Castanon will remain in ICE custody at the Bristol County House of Correction, pending removal proceedings."

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