More than 100 high school students in Arizona marched to the police department to defend their classmate who was arrested by immigration authorities right before his graduation.
On Thursday night, Thomas Torres-Maytorena, 18, a student at Desert View High School in Tucson, Arizona was pulled over in a traffic stop while driving two friends in a family member’s car, reported the Arizona Republic.
According to an incident report sent to Yahoo Lifestyle from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, the teen was stopped because the insurance on the vehicle was suspended and the registration expired. The car also contained two empty cans of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, leading police to conduct a field sobriety test, which Torres-Maytorena passed.
Torres-Maytorena confessed to police that he didn’t have a driver’s license. The report says the officer called the car’s owner Lorena Rodriguez, who supplied a false Social Security number for the teen.
Local high school students staged a walkout Monday morning after a football player & student was taken into Border Patrol custody.— AndrewKVOA (@AndrewKVOA) May 6, 2019
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
Torres-Maytorena told police that he is an undocumented citizen. “It was at this point Border Patrol was contacted. Border Patrol proceeded to take custody of Torres-Maytorena,” read a police press release.
Rodriguez, 45, who works at a Tucson beauty school, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Torres-Maytorena, the best friend of her son Marcell Ibarra, has been living at her home for the past eight months, although his mother and grandmother live in Tucson. “Thomas’s family moved to the states from Mexico to escape drug violence,” she says. “When he visited in 2012, a family member tried to kidnap him.”
On Thursday, Rodriguez sent Torres-Maytorena to purchase toiletries at the store, and his friends, who were at her house doing homework, came along for the ride.
“I knew he didn’t have a driver’s license so I feel guilty about that,” Rodriguez tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He said, ‘Are you sure?’ and he offered to pay for them.”
Rodriquez says after being detained in a detention center in Tucson, Torres-Maytorena was moved to a Casa Grande facility, where he has been allowed to call her twice. She’s seeking legal assistance for his case.
A representative from U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
On Monday morning, 120 of Torres-Maytorena’s classmates marched to the Pima County Sheriff's Department holding “Operation Thomas” signs and cried for law enforcement and immigration authorities to cease their alliance.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, last year county officials voted to terminate a $1 million grant for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, as part of “Operation Stonegarden,” a federal program that provides financial assistance to local police departments who collaborate on tightening border security. Undeterred by the official’s vote, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department applied for another round of funding, which will be voted on by the Board of Supervisors. In the press release, police wanted “to prevent the possible spread of misinformation” about their interests.
Ibarra told the Arizona Republic, "He's my best friend, my brother, he's my ride or die. I would do anything for him. That's why we're out here."
Classmate Daffne Anselmo added, "All of this is unnecessary, if they could just let him go, because this does not need to to happen. He should be in school right now. ... He should be learning and finishing his couple of days off, we just want him to graduate."
Neither student responded to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
Torres-Maytorenas graduation date is May 22nd. Sunnyside Unifed School District spokesperson Victor Mercado tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Student safety and our students' ability to exercise their First Amendment right are very important to us. Our school team and administrators responded rapidly; District Security units and officers from Tucson Police Department ensured the safety of students along the demonstration route.”
A GoFundMe account by Rodriquez estimated that $10,000 is needed for the teen’s legal bills and has thus far raised almost $9,000.
“Thomas Torres is a long time family friend whom I’ve been honored to know for the past four years here in Tucson, Arizona,” Rodriquez wrote. “He moved here from Mexico when he was young, along with his mother and two younger sisters to seek a better future and education. 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…people like Thomas are needed in this country. He’s a hardworking young man and willing to better his future.”
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