TUCSON, Ariz. — More than 120 students walked out of Desert View High School on Monday morning to protest the Border Patrol’s detention of one of their classmates just weeks before he’s scheduled to graduate.
Pima County Sheriff’s deputies pulled over Thomas Torres Maytorena for a traffic stop on Thursday night near Alvernon Way and Drexel Road. He was driving his mom’s car with two of of his friends when he was pulled over, according to his classmates.
After administering and passing a field sobriety test, deputies questioned Torres and asked that he provide identification, which he was unable to do so.
“They held him in a cop car,” said Irvyn Rivas, a senior at Desert View who was with Torres when he was pulled over. “They started calling Border Patrol and everything and we were like, ‘What for?’ And they didn’t answer us.”
In response to criticism for their involvement in the arrest, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department released on Monday the incident report from that night.
A deputy stopped Torres Maytorena around 9:51 p.m. after performing a records check that found that the car had an expired registration and a mandatory insurance suspension, according to the report.
The deputy said Torres Maytorena was unable to provide any form of identification, such as a drivers license or Social Security number.
He also noticed two empty cans of Mike’s Hard Lemonade inside the car, which is why the deputy conducted a field sobriety test. Torres Maytorena passed.
According to the report, the deputy called the car’s registered owner, who identified herself as Torres Maytorena’s mother. She told the deputy initially she didn’t know Torres Maytorena had the car, but later recanted.
She also provided Torres Maytorena with a Social Security number that did not belong to him, the report said. He then provided a copy of his Desert View student ID, but admitted that he was an undocumented immigrant, so the deputy called Border Patrol.
“I then asked Mr. Maytorena to have a seat in the back of my patrol vehicle. He was not handcuffed during this process,” the deputy’s incident report said.
“Mr. Maytorena’s family were on scene and had been for some time. Before Border Patrol arrived, I allowed them some time to speak with him in the back of my patrol vehicle,” the report said.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that officials responded on Thursday to a request to assist from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
“USBP (Border Patrol) regularly assists local jurisdictions when an individual’s identity cannot immediately be determined; for example if he or she were pulled over without valid identification,” the agency said in a written statement.
Border agents placed Torres Maytorena under arrest and transported him to the local station for processing. He remains in Border Patrol custody on immigration charges, the agency added.
Hisarrest prompted students to organize a walk out on Monday morning.
Soon after classes started, about 120 students got up and left campus. They marched to the headquarters of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department to demand Torres’ release.
Marcell Ibarra said Torres was his best friend and that the two played together on the football team. He helped organize the walk out.
“He’s my best friend, my brother, he’s my ride or die,” Ibarra said. “I would do anything for him. That’s why we’re out here.”
The students carried signs and banners with his name. During a brief rally, they demanded that the immigration officials release Torres without bail so he could return to class.
Torres, a senior at Desert View, had been expected to graduate on May 22.
“All of this is unnecessary, if they could just let him go, because this does not need to to happen,” said Daffne Anselmo, another classmate. “He should be in school right now. … He should be learning and finishing his couple of days off, we just want him to graduate.”
The studends demanded an end to the cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.
Activists on site for the protest complained that the sheriff’s department was in line to get federal funding as part of Operation Stonegarden, which allows local agencies to supplement costs associated with assisting federal law enforcement activities along the border.
In a statement, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department said the deputy who responded on Thursday was assigned to the DUI enforcement unit, and not to Operation Stonegarden activities.
The department pushed back against the idea that the deputy had mishandled the situation.
“The actions of the deputy are what the Sheriff would expect of any deputy under similar circumstances,” the statement said. “The deputy conducted a thorough investigation and utilized all resources available to him in an attempt to identify the driver. Identification of the driver was fundamentally necessary and required to issue valid traffic citations.”
Victor Mercado, a spokesman for the Sunnyside Unified School District, said security was district officials’ top concern about the student walkout.
“They’re obviously exercising their First Amendment right. We just want to make sure they do that in a way that is safe,” he said.
Tucson Police and school security escorted students as they walked from the high school to the sheriff’s department, he said. The district also brought school buses to take students back to school once the rally in front the sheriff’s department ended.
A family friend set up a Go Fund Me account to raise $10,000 to help Torres with legal expenses to fight his possible deportation to Mexico.
The account said Torres moved to Tucson at a very young age with his mother and two younger sisters.