Functioning as a high school student is hard enough but as an undocumented student, it can be an emotional burden of uncertainty. One fear undocumented students should not have to face is being unexpectedly pulled out of school by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
ICE detained Dennis Rivera-Sarmiento after police were called over because of an altercation between him and a female student that resulted in her getting injured at Houston Independent School District (HISD). On January 31st, the teenager's physical altercation resulted in his arrest and the same day ICE picked him up after police transferred his information.
HISD is a predominantly Latino high school and on Valentine's Day, more than 300 students staged a protest in support of their classmate.
Andrea Gonzalez, a 15-year-old sophomore who helped organize the protest, told Chron.com, "We don't want anything like this to happen to anyone else," Gonzalez said. She added, "Today it could be Dennis, tomorrow it could be us."
Rivera-Sarmiento is from Honduras who unfortunately because of his immigration status his arrest escalated to a risk of deportation.
Reporter Mayra Moreno from ABC13 posted a video of the students walking out on Twitter with the hashtag #FreeDennis.
— Mayra Moreno ABC13 (@MayraABC13) February 14, 2018
"In line with the commitment expressed by both the Board of Education and the Superintendent, HISD has not used district resources to assist in deportation actions and we do not report students to ICE. Our Superintendent and administration remain steadfast in the district’s commitment to educating every student regardless of their immigration status," HISD said in a statement, adding that students are and will continue to be safe in the district's classrooms.
Sara Martinez, a 17-year-old senior at Austin High School, also posted a five-second video of the protest to Twitter. "[The protest is] for Dennis and we are doing this because he was just defending himself from bullies. HISD did him injustice by working with the police, they should protect their students and not fail them," Martinez told Newsweek.
— United We Dream (#DreamActNow: 478-488-8059) (@UWDHouston) February 14, 2018
"On Jan. 31, 2018, deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lodged an immigration detainer with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Jail on Dennis Raynel Rivera-Sarmiento, 19, a citizen of Honduras, following his arrest on criminal charges of assault causing bodily injury. That same day, the jail released him into ICE custody," ICE spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa said in a statement.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) February 11, 2018
Shout out to the students at Stephen F. Austin High School in Houston who walked out of class today after another student was arrested by ICE. Y'all are beautiful.#FreeDennis pic.twitter.com/0Q5dlsdFEt
— MIDWEST UNREST (@MW_Unrest) February 15, 2018
Rivera-Sarmiento has been accepted to two colleges to study computer science but now sits in ICE custody. You can learn more about and sign a petition here.