Immigrant Youth Galvanize Community to Free HISD Student Dennis From Houston Detention Center

Sheridan Aguirre Press Releases

Continue Fight for Dennis and Local Policies to Stop Deportation in Face of ICE Attacks & Racist SB 4

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Chris Valdez | chris@unitedwedream.org | 713.352.8197
Berlinda Mojica | info@onehouston.org | 857.544.8077

Houston, TX – Wednesday, Austin High School senior Dennis Sarmiento was released from ICE detention after Judge Richard Walton issued a bond on his case. In January, after reporting a case of racist attacks and bullying by a fellow student to school officials, Dennis was handcuffed, put into HISD Police custody, taken to Harris County jail by Harris County deputies, and given to ICE agents who locked him in a Livingston ICE detention camp more than 70 miles away from his friends, family and attorney for nearly 3 months. This step comes after hundreds of Dennis’ fellow students walked out of their classes flooding the streets demanding his release and making national headlines.

Cortez Downey, school counselor to Dennis, Austin High School:

“I am elated that Dennis has returned home to his friends, his family, and his senior class. His mom will now get to see her son graduate high school, and Dennis will now be able to continue his preparation to hopefully begin college in the fall as has been his dream. While I am overjoyed at this victory, I recognize that there is still a challenging road ahead, not only for Dennis, but for all HISD students who are at risk for criminalization by current disciplinary practices. At a time when many adults are unwilling to utilize their power to effect change, I am inspired by the youth–the Austin High School student organizers who are unafraid to elevate their voices to bring awareness to inequity, advocating on behalf of themselves, and working with their community to model liberty and justice for all.”

Damaris Gonzalez, undocumented leader and organizer with United We Dream Houston said:

“This shows us that our voices matter and that an organized community is a powerful one when it comes protecting one another. But the fight for Dennis’s freedom is far from over. He will still be in deportation proceedings, and he is one of thousands of immigrants who are under attack by ICE and racist Texas legislation like SB 4, which could turn any encounter with a police officer into indefinite time in a detention camp or deportation.

“United We Dream and our members will continue to empower and organize our community to fight back against the separations and deportations of families and the racist agendas of the state and Trump. We are resilient, unafraid and we are here to protect those who cannot speak for themselves so that we may live with dignity and peace. Texas is our home and we are here to stay.”

Brandon Roche, Immigration Attorney for Dennis:

“I am very glad Dennis will now have the opportunity to rejoin his classmates and finish his senior year of high school. His release on bond is a testament to his fortitude, his classmates outspokenness, and the community’s willingness to fight injustice. This is just one step in a much longer process that he still faces to avoid deportation but it is a big step and I’m glad I could help in such a worthy endeavor.”

Brittney Garza, ONE Houston:

“I’m so happy to hear about Dennis’ release from ICE custody. ONE Houston is working diligently with our partners and local school boards so our most vulnerable students are protected and supported by equitable policies. Our schools are not places to criminalize our children.”

Dennis’s fight is not over. The community can continue to show financial support for his case through GoFundMe.

United We Dream calls on our communities to defend their rights, not open the door to ICE, and to report ICE activities to the United We Dream MigraWatch hotline (1-844-363-1423). United We Dream has also developed the mobile app, Notifica, which immediately alerts your loved ones and legal advocates to the user’s location in cases of detention. Text “Notifica” to 877-877 for a link for download.

In Houston, community members can learn more about defending their rights, access free and low cost legal services, and find ways to fight back against racial profiling and deportations by calling 1-833-HOU-IMMI (468-4664).

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United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful network made up of over 400,000 members and 48 affiliate organizations across 26 states. UWD’s vision is to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement of young people who organize and advocate at the local and national levels for the dignity and justice of immigrants and communities of color in the United States.