For Immigrant Students, a New Worry: A Call to ICE
HOUSTON — As Dennis Rivera-Sarmiento sat in a detention center 80 miles away from his Texas home this past winter, clad in a blue inmate uniform, he could see his high school diploma slipping further from his reach. Graduation was in June, but a schoolyard scuffle with a girl who he said had called him a racial epithet had gotten him arrested by his high school’s police officer.
Then a state law that required the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to cooperate with federal immigration officers flagged him for deportation, back to his native Honduras, from which he and his family had fled five years ago.
The case of the “quiet kid who was good at soccer” hauled from high school to a deportation center turned Mr. Rivera-Sarmiento into a cause célèbre in Houston, a textbook case of what immigration advocacy groups fear could happen as schools tighten discipline in the wake of school shootings, the police ratchet up sweeps for gang members and local law enforcement draws closer to the federal immigration authorities.
The school, the community and plenty of lawyers rallied to Mr. Rivera-Sarmiento’s side, and on Saturday, he will don a green graduation gown and cross the stage as part of the class of 2018 at Stephen F. Austin High School.
But beyond that stage, his future is decidedly uncertain as he awaits an asylum hearing that will determine his future in the United States.
“I actually don’t think this is real,” Mr. Rivera-Sarmiento, 19, said. “I never thought I’d be graduating. I thought I would be in Honduras right now.”
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