Thomas Torres, a high school football player, who has called the United States home since he was just a toddler, was taken into custody last week and faces possible deportation.
Desert View High School students walked out of class on Monday to hold a protest outside of an Arizona sheriff’s office.
Torres is supposed to graduate on May 22, but that is now in doubt as he is being held in a federal holding facility in Casa Grande, Arizona. Torres, according to the family he lives with, is now scheduled to appear in immigration court on the 22nd.
Torres has been living with Lorena Rodriguez and her family for years. He shared a room with her brother, who is also graduating. Their caps and gowns are hanging together in their shared bedroom closet.
Torres’ detention, coming so close to a rite of passage that will most likely be stolen from him is a harsh example of the stance the Trump Administration has taken on illegal immigration.
Rodriguez has created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Torre’s mounting legal costs. She says that Torres was just a toddler when his family crossed the border searching for a better life. His parents returned to Mexico years ago leaving him alone in the United States. He has lived with Rodriguez’s throughout his four years of high school.
“Hello friends, my name is Lorena Rodriguez. Thomas Torres is a long- time family friend whom I’ve been honored to know for the past four years here in Tucson, Arizona,” Rodriguez wrote on the GoFundMe campaign. 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. Thomas Torres is scheduled to graduate on May 22nd, 2019.
She adds, “Yesterday, Thomas was picked up by border portal and is currently being held in jail and facing the possibility of being separated from his family and friends and sent back to Mexico. I ask that you please consider a donation to help Thomas’ legal bills so that he can graduate and be reunited with his loved ones. With the immigration lawyer, it’s expected to cost around 10,000$ alone, and that does not consider any additional consultation fees. Any support is greatly appreciated. The funds will be withdrawn by myself on behalf of Thomas’ family and sent directly to the lawyer. People like Thomas are needed in this country. He’s a hardworking young man and willing to better his future. We need support! Thank you.”
The GoFundMe campaign has raised close to $9,000 of the $15,000 goal.
Torres worked more than one job, busing tables at a restaurant and doing lawn work. He also played football on the Desert View High School football team.
Sadly, cases of high school students being deported during the Trump administration are not uncommon. What is uncommon is the stance Torres’ friends and classmates have taken. A large portion of the high school is Mexican-American and they have rallied around their friend.
On Monday, Torres’ classmates, marched close to 4 miles from the high school to the sheriff’s office to demand their classmate’s release. The students also called on all law enforcement agencies to stop collaborating with immigration authorities.
“Thomas is the American Dream,” said one of the many signs carried by students that protested outside the sheriff’s office. Other signs read, “Abolish the Border Patrol” and “Without Justice, There is No Peace.”
Torres was taken into custody Thursday after a traffic stop by sheriff’s deputies. He was later turned over to Border Patrol, said Victor Mercado, a spokesman for the Sunnyside Unified High School District.
Meredith Mingledorff, a spokesperson for the Border Patrol, confirmed on Monday that Torres was in federal custody. She also shared that he and faces immigration charges after the agency was contacted by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office.
Rodriguez shares that Torres was unable to produce a driver’s license when he was stopped by sheriff’s deputies. Arizona does not issue licenses to people who are in the country without authorization.
On Monday, a representative from the sheriff’s office stated that Torres was pulled over so a deputy could check if his insurance was current. When he could not produce a driver’s license Torres told the deputy he was in the country illegally. The deputy immediately contacted the Border Patrol.
In 2018, the Trump administration scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by the Obama administration in 2012 to permit those brought to the US illegally while they were children, the opportunity to remain in the U.S. to study and work. For the thousands that made it through the process before the Trump administration discontinued the program in 2018, they were vetted to ensure they had no criminal records and were students, deportation was deferred and they were then able to renew and became eligible for work permits, driver licenses and to become college students. It will be a true tragedy if Thomas Torres does not get the same opportunity.