Two hundred Desert View High School students staged a walkout on May 6 after a classmate was taken into Border Patrol custody last Thursday evening. Thomas Torres, a high school senior, weeks away from graduation at Desert View High School, was taken from his family, friends, and football teammates after a traffic stop by the Pima County Sheriff.
The students walked four miles from Desert View High School to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and ended the walkout with a rally and press conference. The walkout was organized to demand that Thomas be released without bond before his graduation and that collaboration between the Pima County Sheriff’s department and Border Patrol come to an end. Thomas’s detention is a direct result of collaboration between the Pima County Sheriff’s office and Border Patrol, a collaboration which endangers families and disrupts the lives of community members. He is now being held in an ICE detention center.
The Desert View High School administration supported students’ decision to protest by sending buses to bring the students back to campus at the end of the press conference. Tucson community members also showed up with food and water for the students.
“Ms. Rosas, the principal, is actually the one who was with us the whole way with water bottles and to make sure everything was ok,” Anselmo said.
This incident occurred days before Operation Stonegarden came up for another vote this week before the Pima County Board of Supervisors. The funds were rejected last September due to massive community pressure. Operation Stonegarden provides federal funds to facilitate the cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and Customs and Border Patrol. This collaboration often looks like routine traffic stops which turn into Border Patrol detentions. As has been seen in recent years, people in Border Patrol custody have experienced physical and sexual abuse and sometimes death. A teenager recently died in a detention center in Texas–the third child to die in Border Patrol custody in less than six months.
“All we ask is for Thomas to be released before graduation because he’s been working his butt off [to meet] his goal,” said Daffne Anselmo, a Desert View High School student.
Marcell, a friend and football teammate of Thomas, who arrived as Thomas was being detained said, “We want him back with us for graduation. My bro shouldn’t be going through this.”
Thomas Torres is loved and missed by his team, classmates, family and friends. They have created a Gofundme to help cover legal fees. Students are ready to bring Thomas back home for graduation #operationthomas.
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