Above Photo: DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES
Students from Arizona’s Desert View High School marched miles from their campus to a local sheriff’s office in a show of support for Thomas Torres-Maytorena, an 18-year-old senior and football player facing possible deportation just weeks ahead of when he was scheduled to graduate, NBC News and the Associated Press reported. That’s because Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which oversees Border Patrol) is holding Thomas on immigration charges following a traffic stop by local law enforcement.
NBC affiliate News 4 Tucson reported that Thomas was stopped by a Pima County Sheriff’s Department deputy at 9:46 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, due to a mandatory insurance suspension on a vehicle. Thomas couldn’t produce any identification when asked (Arizona only issues drivers licenses to “authorized” immigrants), and reportedly told the deputy he was undocumented.
“On May 2, a Tucson Station Border Patrol agent responded to a request to assist a Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy,” CBP wrote in a statement. “Upon arrival at the location the agent encountered an individual in violation of immigration law. The individual, a Mexican citizen, was placed under arrest and transported to the Tucson Station for further investigation and processing. The individual remains in Border Patrol custody facing immigration charges.”
Local high school students staged a walkout Monday morning after a football player & student was taken into Border Patrol custody.
According to a news release, Thomas Torres, a senior at Desert View High School was taken into custody after a traffic stop by Pima County Sheriff. pic.twitter.com/xwIsk2Mitd
— AndrewKVOA (@AndrewKVOA) May 6, 2019
Thomas’s classmates are outraged that he’s being detained and is reportedly facing immigration court proceedings on May 22 — the same day he was set to graduate with the rest of his senior class, a school official told local news. A GoFundMe page for legal fees set up by someone claiming to be a family friend says that, though he’s Mexican by birth, Thomas has been in the United States since he was young — as young as a toddler, according to the AP.
“He moved here from Mexico when he was young, along with his mother and two younger sisters to seek a better future and education,” the family friend, Lorena Rodriguez, wrote. “He’s been attending Desert View High School for the past four years, engaged in school and sports throughout the years. He’s also worked at restaurants bussing and cleaning tables, doing yard work and finding side jobs; no job is ever too small or big for him.”
“Thomas was picked up by [Border Patrol] and is currently being held in jail and facing the possibility of being separated from his family and friends and sent back to Mexico,” Rodriguez continued. “People like Thomas are needed in this country. He’s a hardworking young man and willing to better his future. We need support!” The GoFundMe campaign has raised just over half of a $10,000 goal as of May 7.
Rodriguez told the AP that Thomas has lived with her family for years, sharing a room with her brother, who is also set to graduate May 22. Now, Thomas’s graduation cap and gown are hanging in a closet there, waiting to see if they’ll be used.
My youthful ass hanging with youth. Clips from the walk out yesterday by desert view high.
— Alejandra (@AleLaPlebe) May 7, 2019
Protesters marched four miles from the school Thomas is scheduled to graduate from to the sheriff’s office that employs the deputy who originally stopped Thomas. The group demanded his release and called on law enforcement to stop working with immigration authorities, the AP reported.
When asked about the cause behind the protest, Victor Mercado, public information officer for the Sunnyside Unified School District (which includes Desert View), told News 4 Tucson, “I think it’s the initial reaction, right? That one of their classmates is being held in custody.”
According to the AP, signs at the march read “Thomas is the American Dream,” “Abolish the Border Patrol,” and “Without Justice, There is No Peace.” Photos of the march from the Arizona Daily Star show classmates speaking, dancing, waving flags, and embracing each other. Video from the protest shows massive banners and crowd chanting Thomas’s name as cars honked their horns while driving by.