Hundreds of Students Walk Out of Houston High School to Demand ICE Release Their Classmate

February 16, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Several hundred students walked out of Stephen F. Austin High School in Houston, Texas, February 14, demanding that immigration authorities release Dennis Rivera-Sarmiento, a senior at their school, now in ICE detention.

On Tuesday, January 30, Dennis was involved in an altercation at the school, defending himself against bullies mocking him for being undocumented. Instead of de-escalating the situation, school officials called the campus police, who arrested Dennis and took him to the Harris County Jail. The district attorney immediately filed assault charges against Dennis. His $2,000 bail was paid within hours, but instead of being released, Dennis was detained: ICE had already gotten his fingerprints and contacted the sheriffs to hold him. Dennis was turned over to ICE, where he remains.

Dennis was brought here as a minor in 2013 from Honduras. He is on the school soccer team and has been accepted to two Texas colleges to study computer science. One of his teachers said in a letter of support that the teachers, staff, and administration work hard to keep the students safe, but that both “the criminal justice system and the Houston Independent School District (HISD) have failed us.”

Many fear for Dennis’s life if he is deported. Conditions in Honduras are horrific, a result of decades of U.S. imperialist domination and exploitation, which includes the U.S. role under Obama in the 2009 coup that brought the current regime to power. The combination of state violence and gang violence has made the murder rate one of the highest in the world; and scores of immigrants deported by ICE to Honduras and other Central American countries have been killed shortly after of being forced to return.1

Outraged, the students decided they needed to protest, and at noon on the 14th they surged out the doors into the street. The outpouring, as can be seen in a video on the United We Dream Houston Facebook page, was spirited, bold, angry, determined, and organized. It reflected unity of Black and Latino students (there are few white students at that school), those documented and those undocumented, as well as support from teachers. United We Dream activists assisted the youth in the protest and some members of the community turned out as well.

Banners and signs read: “Black Brown Unite,” “#FreeDennis,” “Education, Not Deportation,” and “No Human Is Illegal!” Students marched several blocks around the campus chanting “What do we want? Free Dennis! When do we want it? Now!” “No Trump, No KKK, No Racist USA!” “Black, Brown, Trans, Queer—Immigrants Are Welcome Here!” and “No Way, It’s Our Right—Deportation We Will Fight!”

A young woman on the bullhorn declared, “We’re tired of HISD officers collaborating with HPD [Houston Police Dept.] and criminalizing our Black and Brown students. We’re tired of it. So we demand that today they take action and free Dennis!” An online petition demanding Dennis’s release has, at this writing, been signed by more than 10,000 people, and Twitter is buzzing about the case. Dennis’s attorney said on social media that “ICE can deport Dennis any day.” We cannot let this happen! Sign petition to #FreeDennis.

A couple of revcom readers went out there the next morning with the Refuse Fascism statement, “FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE MUSLIMS, THEN THEY CAME FOR THE IMMIGRANTS, Not This Time...” and the cards promoting the talk by Bob Avakian (BA), “The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go...” We told the students how important and right on time their walkout was.

We distributed over 250 each of the flyers and cards, and dozens of stickers. We sat down with a few of the students, including one of the organizers of the protest who said that pulling it together took a long time. It was clear that a lot of thought and effort had been put into it. We gave them flyers and cards to pass out and talked with them about ideas for the day of protest on March 1, proposed by Refuse Fascism. We made plans to return the next day and show clips of the new talk by BA.

1. For more, see “The U.S. Hand Behind the Coup in Honduras” and “Mothers and Children Deported Back to Honduras: U.S. Sends First Planeload of Children Back to Hell.” [back]





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