HISD student detained by ICE after school fight returns to Austin High School

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HOUSTON — A Stephen F. Austin High School student who was detained by ICE authorities for nearly three months has been released after a judge issued a bond on the case.

Dennis Rivera Sarmiento, 19, was back in school Monday.

"He looked different. It's been a long time since I've seen him. We applauded him because he came back again to be a part of us and the school too," sophomore Jose Gonzalez said.

"To see him go through all that and still want to come back to school shows his strong character inside him," junior Carlos Lara said.

Houston police arrested Sarmiento on Jan. 30 after he got in a fight with another student. ICE authorities became involved and locked the high school senior up at an ICE detention center in Livingston— nearly 70 miles from his family and friends.

Following his arrest, hundreds of Sarmiento's classmates walked out of the school in protest, demanding his release.

Over the last several months, Cortez Downey, a counselor at Stephen F. Austin High, has been working closely with Sarmiento and representatives at United We Dream to free him from the ICE detention center.

"Dennis has always wanted to inspire and motivate people. A lot of other kids at this school are worried about their undocumented status too so to see him return back to campus has been huge for them, almost a sigh of relief," Downey said.

"It definitely calls into question different policies that school districts either have or don't have that could potentially criminalize students," Downey continued.

"It's really powerful to see him out because now that he's out he can finally have the chance and the opportunity for a better future. He's already been accepted into two universities," Damaris Gonzalez with United We Dream Houston said.

According to his attorney, Brandon Roché, Sarmiento is due back in court May 1 for a misdemeanor assault charge.

For now, Sarmiento is working on getting back into his routine and deciding which college he'll attend in the fall.

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