On Thursday afternoon Uriel Alberto stepped out of the bleakly lit Wake County Jail and into the sunshine. He had traded his orange-and-white striped jumpsuit for an orange T-shirt that read "undocumented and unafraid."
"I'm excited to be out," Alberto, 24, said, after posting a $7,500 immigration bond. "But it's bittersweet. I met a lot of men in there who won't be going home. They are not going to walk out of there."
Alberto was among three people affiliated with the NC DREAM Team and El Cambio who were arrested Feb. 29 on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges afer protesting a meeting of the House Select Committee on the State's Role on Immigration Policy. His fellow protesters were released; he was jailed because he has several misdemeanor convictions, including driving with a revoked license, speeding and DWI.
He had spent more than two weeks in jail, 10 of those days on hunger strike. On this afternoon, his leather belt was cinched tightly around his waist to keep his blue jeans up.
Alberto, who lives in Winston-Salem, spent a portion of his incarceration and hunger strike in solitary confinement. "I thought about not having a chance to give my family and friends a hug and a kiss," said Alberto, who, at 7, was brought by his parents to the U.S. from Oaxaca, Mexico. "I want to go back to Winston-Salem and do that and say things to my family and friends that need to be said."
His criminal hearing is April 2 in Wake County; his immigration hearing has not been set, but it is under the federal jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Tonight, though, Alberto is looking forward to one thing: "I want my mom to fix her special enchiladas." The secret ingredient? Oaxacan mole.