HOUSTON -- It was a show of unity and solidarity from students at Stephen F. Austin High School, who walked around campus Monday protesting after immigration authorities detained one of their school mates.
The controversy apparently sparked nearly two weeks ago from a fight that broke out near the high school involving Dennis Rivera-Sarmiento, an undocumented senior, and another female student.
"It got to the point where she threw her drink at him and he just snapped and punched her, in the face I think," senior Mateo Rivera said.
"A lot of people here are undocumented and they go to school and they're smart. And people want to talk mess about them, harass them, throw bottles at them," freshman Marjorie Garcia said.
What started the fight is unclear. But students said the argument apparently escalated, with the female student shouting obscenities and calling Rivera racial slurs. They said, in his defense, Rivera hit her.
Rivera was later arrested and charged with assault with bodily injury. Because of his undocumented status, ICE got involved and have since detained the 19-year-old student. Classmates said Rivera has a promising future ahead of him.
"He was accepted to two colleges. He was top 10% and leader of the varsity soccer team," Rivera said.
"There's a lot of minority students here and that's our everyday life. Every day we hear racial slurs, but it's never gone this far," freshman Ashlyn Winters said.
In a statement, Houston ISD said no one from the district contacted ICE, nor did they turn over Rivera to ICE.
"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. Students are and will continue to be safe in our classrooms."
An online petition has been filed, asking for Rivera to be released so he can finish school and head to college.