Arizona High School Students Walk Out to Protest Detention of Undocumented Classmate

More than 120 students from a high school in Arizona participated in a walkout after Border Patrol agents detained a student. Students from Desert View High School (DVHS) walked out on the morning of May 6, after Thomas Torres Maytorena was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents on May 2, KGUN 9 reported. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department said Torres Maytorena, a senior at the high school, was stopped by a deputy during a routine traffic stop. The 18-year-old was given civil citations for not having a driver’s license, insurance, or registration papers, and for having expired plates, according to a statement. "The deputy conducted a thorough investigation and utilized all resources available to him in an attempt to identify the driver,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “Identification of the driver was fundamentally necessary and required to issue valid traffic citations. When informed by Torres Maytorena that he did not have legal status, the deputy contacted the federal agency in charge of immigration." Torres Maytorena was reportedly allowed to speak with relatives after he was placed in the back of the patrol vehicle. He was given a sobriety test, which he passed, The New York Times reported. DVHS students gathered with signs and marched to the sheriff’s office to protest Torres Maytorena’s arrest, CNN reported. "We're here to get our friend back," said Daphne Anselmo, a classmate of Torres Maytorena, according to the news station. "This shouldn't be happening right now. Thomas should be in class." The North Star reached out to the Sunnyside Unified School District for comment but did not hear back in time for publication. District spokesman Victor Mercado told The Times that about 120 students from the school participated in the four-hour protest. “The Pima County Sheriff’s Department fully supports individuals who lawfully exercise their first amendment rights. The Sheriff’s Department understands today’s protest was an organized response to a traffic stop,” the sheriff's department said in the statement. “Sheriff Napier would like to thank the school administration for being present and commends the students on their peaceful protest.” Mercado told KGUN 9 that Torres Maytorena’s court date is on May 22, the same day he is supposed to graduate from high school. A fundraiser has been launched to pay for Torres Maytorena’s legal fees, including an immigration attorney. The GoFundMe page stated that the teen had moved to the US from Mexico with his family when he was young. The fundraiser has already raised over $11,500 of its $15,000 goal as of Thursday, May 9. “People like Thomas are needed in this country. He’s a hardworking young man and willing to better his future,” wrote GoFundMe organizer Lorena Rodriguez. In 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made over 158,000 arrests and 66 percent of those arrested who were convicted criminals. ICE also removed over 256,000 undocumented immigrants, according to the agency.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.