About 300 students at a Houston high school reportedly walked out of school during their lunch break earlier this week to protest the detention of one of their classmates by federal immigration officials.
Students at Stephen F. Austin High School on Houston’s predominantly-Hispanic east side conducted what authorities described as a non-violent protest around the detention of Dennis Rivera by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.
Records show agents placed Rivera in custody during late January after an altercation with a female student.
According to a statement from the Houston Independent School District (HISD), a “verbal exchange” between Rivera and the female student escalated into a “physical confrontation,” during which the female student became injured and hospitalized.
HISD Police reports showed they then transferred custody of Rivera to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).
When ICE agents learned of Rivera’s Honduran national status and his illegal entry into the U.S. as a 14-year-old, they requested the sheriff’s office hold Rivera for detainment and to transfer custody of Rivera to ICE.
The HCSO reportedly completed the transfer on January 31.
According to an ICE spokesperson, federal agents captured Rivera in late 2013, but released him on an order of supervision, ultimately ordering him to leave the U.S. by March 2014.
Advocates for Rivera do not dispute the facts of the incident, but they argue he suffered from bullying by the female student and others for his undocumented status.
According to other students, classmates verbally harassed Rivera, physically abused him and even threw drinks at his person.
During an interview, Jose Ayala, one of the students who took part in the protest of Rivera’s detainment and prospective deportation, said she shared a similar situation with the Houston Chronicle:
Ayala said she is one of 700,000 young people in the U.S. currently eligible for protection under the now-unfunded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and stay in the country legally.
The Trump Administration is not holding back on their efforts and announced intentions to dismantle DACA, and Congress is currently in a stalemate as to how to extend those protections through legislation, with the latest proposal dying yesterday in the Senate by a vote largely along party lines.
“This could be my situation,” Ayala said. “We understand mistakes can drag us down, but we learn from them, get back up and move on stronger. It’s time for (Rivera) to come back and finish his senior year strong.”