TUCSON, Ariz. — Less than three weeks before his graduation from high school in Tucson, Arizona, a routine traffic stop landed Thomas Torres-Maytorena in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection agents.
On Monday, more than 100 of his classmates walked out of Desert View High School and marched in protest to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
It was the sheriff’s department that turned the 18-year-old undocumented student over to federal authorities following the traffic stop on Thursday night, according to the sheriff’s department and a school official.
“We’re here to get our friend back,” classmate Daphne Anselmo told the protesting students on Monday, according to video from CNN affiliate KOLD. “This shouldn’t be happening right now. Thomas should be in class.”
At the protest, students chanted their classmate’s name.
The sheriff’s department said in a statement that Torres-Maytorena was unable to provide identification after he was pulled over by deputies. They contacted border patrol agents when Torres-Maytorena told them he was undocumented.
Torres-Maytorena was issued a traffic citation for “displaying a plate suspended for financial responsibility, no mandatory insurance, no valid driver’s license and no current registration,” according to the sheriff’s department.
Students ‘worried’ about classmate
Sunnyside Unified High School District spokesman Victor Mercado told KOLD that the students walked out because they were worried about where their classmate was and to “raise awareness as to what took place.”
The US Border Patrol said in a statement that Torres-Maytorenais is a Mexican citizen and faces immigration charges. He remained in CBP custody in Tucson on Tuesday morning, according to CBP spokesman Rob Daniels.
The high school senior, described by classmates as a member of the football team, was to graduate on May 22 — the same day he is now scheduled to appear in court on the traffic charges, according to Pima County online records.
Attempts by CNN to reach members of Torres-Maytorena’s family have been unsuccessful.
The sheriff’s statement said the department “fully supports individuals who lawfully exercise their first amendment rights.”
“The actions of the deputy are what the Sheriff would expect of any deputy under similar circumstances,” the statement added.
“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. When informed by Torres-Maytorena that he did not have legal status, the deputy contacted the federal agency in charge of immigration.”