Charlotte high school student set to graduate from Northwest School of the Arts in the spring has been detained by federal immigration authorities, and friends fear he could be deported.
Gustavo “Gus” Zamudio’s problems started when he was arrested last weekend, on Feb. 25, on a felony charge of larceny by employee, court records show. It was not immediately known where he worked, and additional details of the case were not available Saturday.
The native of Mexico is being held in a federal immigration detention center in southern Georgia, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records show.
“Gus is one of the sweetest, funniest and most precious humans I’ve ever met,” Northwest senior Devyn Bauer wrote on social media Saturday. “All I can think about is how terrified he must be feeling right now.”
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said he was unable to immediately comment about Zamudio’s case. But he added, “ICE is focused on identifying, arresting and removing public safety threats, such as criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws.”
Word quickly spread among the Northwest community about Zamudio’s detention.
Northwest is a tight-knit magnet program for grades 6 through 12, and is the only magnet school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that offers a concentration in the arts. Reached Saturday night, Principal Melody Sears referred comment to the district. A district spokesperson could not be reached.
Zamudio’s case comes at a time when immigrants and their supporters in Charlotte and around the nation remain worried about President Donald Trump’s push to deport undocumented immigrants.
Under a federal program known as 287(g), Mecklenburg sheriff’s deputies, in partnership with ICE, check out everyone who is arrested and sent to the county jail to identify potential undocumented immigrants or those who have violated their immigration status.
During their jail processing, all prisoners are asked where they were born and what country are they a citizen or naturalized citizen of. Depending on the answer, they could face additional scrutiny by deputies trained to work in the 287(g) program to see if the person is unlawfully in the country.
In the last fiscal year, 1,241 foreign nationals went through the county program and 100 were deported, according to ICE.
Zamudio left the jail on Monday, records show. He is being held at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga.
People detained at that center appear before an immigration judge who determines whether they will be released while the deportation process unfolds.
’A ton of friends’
Bauer described Zamudio as a close friend, and started a “Keep Gus Home” campaign on Go Fund Me on Saturday, hoping to raise $25,000.
“We’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together and we’ve always been there for each other,” Bauer wrote.
Zamudio lived in Charlotte most of his life and planned to attend college and become a lawyer, according to Bauer’s post.
“He has a ton of friends back here in Charlotte trying to do everything we can,” Bauer stated. “Gus — we love you, we miss you and we’re not giving up.”