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Undocumented Student Arrested After Incident At Local High School Might Request Asylum

Dennis Rivera Sarmiento was released last week but is still at risk of deportation

Dennis Rivera Sarmiento (left) poses with Cortez Downey (right), his college counselor. Brandon Roche, the immigration attorney who is representing Rivera Sarmiento, says requesting asylum is one of the options they are considering in order to avoid his deportation to Honduras.

Dennis Rivera Sarmiento, an undocumented student whose arrest caused controversy after an altercation at a Houston high school back in February, has been released and his attorney said he might request asylum in order to stay in the United States.

Brandon Roche, the immigration attorney that represents Rivera Sarmiento, told Houston Public Media his client was released from an ICE detention facility located in Livingston, about 80 miles north of Houston, on April 4th on a $2,500 bond.

Roche added that Rivera Sarmiento, who is 19 years-old and originally from Honduras, “plead certain immigration charges and he now has to seek immigration relief before a judge.”

The attorney emphasized there is no definite plan regarding the defense of Rivera Sarmiento, but he commented some of the options they are “exploring” are “things like asylum, like a U visa, like special immigrant juvenile status.”

“He fears persecution if he is returned to Honduras,” Roche noted, although he didn’t provide details about why his client has such fear. The attorney admitted the chances of Rivera Sarmiento are slim and commented that “the odds are stacked against him.”

Roche is currently waiting for a notification regarding the next date when Rivera Sarmiento will have to appear before an immigration judge.

In addition to his immigration case, Rivera Sarmiento has an ongoing criminal case because of the assault he was charged with due to the altercation, which happened at Austin High School, which is part of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), in February.

United We Dream (UWD), the largest organization of undocumented youth in the United States, has been very involved in advocating for Rivera Sarmiento’s release and actually organized a walk out at the high school.

Roche detailed Rivera Sarmiento contends that the day of the incident a female student called him a “(expletive) wet back” and through a bottle of liquid at him, and that his client “defended himself by pushing her away.”

A statement from HISD said that a “verbal exchange” between a female student and Rivera Sarmiento led to a “physical confrontation.” The statement added the female student was treated at a hospital and subsequently released.

Damaris Gonzalez, one of UWD’s leaders in Houston, said in a written statement that Rivera Sarmiento’s release “shows us that our voices matter and that an organized community is a powerful one when it comes to protecting one another.”

Nonetheless, Gonzalez added “the fight for Dennis’s freedom is far from over.”

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Digital News Producer

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz is originally from Madrid (Spain). He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master’s degree...

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