Community rallies behind Guilford College student whose stepfather was detained by ICE

GREENSBORO, N.C.-- Sophomore Maria Peralta’s studies at Guilford College were interrupted April 9 when she got a frantic call from her mom in Chapel Hill.

“As soon as I get a phone call -- she gets a phone call from the Wake County jail and it’s my stepfather saying he was detained,” Peralta said. “We couldn’t talk much the first day and the next thing you know they moved him to the Stewart Detention Center.”

Peralta said her stepfather was stopped by ICE agents and questioned in the driveway while taking out the trash.

“They were looking for someone else and he said that’s not him, cause it wasn’t him, and they were asking for identification,” Peralta said.

Her stepfather, Enrique Vilchis Jimenez, is an undocumented immigrant originally from Mexico.

Jimenez is currently being detained at at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia.

Andrew Willis Garces, with American Service Friends Committee or Siembra NC, said they are working with Peralta will they await a hearing date for her stepfather.

“Maria has spent dozens of hours helping immigrants, has traveled to DC to advocate for a ‘Clean DREAM Act’ with Sen. Thom Tillis, she’s exactly the kind of person that ICE would prefer to suffer in silence. We won’t let that happen,” said Siembra NC/AFSC organizer Laura Garduño Garcia. “ICE is indiscriminately targeting people like her stepfather, because they want every family to be afraid, to not know if they’ll come back from throwing out the trash. AFSC will make sure she and her family have support from their community.”

With the help of AFSC/Siembra NC and the faculty at Guilford College, her You Caring page has been shared online more than 300 times.

The online campaign page is to raise money for immigration attorneys and other expenses.

Peralta said though this experience has been frightening, it pushes her to continue her education and activism work with Siembra NC.

“I’ve seen a lot of stories like someone’s been detained but then when it happens to you it changes your whole perspective and in general I’ve gained a lot of fear and anger. How can my community be under attack and feel this way and feel afraid to throw out the trash and just walk outside to go work -- it’s not OK,” Peralta said.

Peralta said she is very grateful for the hugs, calls and outreach from friends and professors at Guilford College wanting to help with the stress during final exams.

“They were even offering me help, like, "Here’s some extensions, you don’t have to overwhelm yourself. Take time to self care,'” Peralta said.

Assistant Director of Multicultural Education Irving Zavaleta Jimenez helped to organize an assembly on campus to bring awareness to Peralta's situation .

“I am very proud of Maria and her straight her courageous spirit to take this on,” Zavaleta Jimenez said. “It was really a reminder for all of us that this could happen to any of us.”