Arizona high school students stage walkout over classmate's possible deportation

“People like Thomas are needed in this country," a family friend said of the 18-year-old who has been in the U.S. since he was a toddler.
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By Tim Stelloh and Rima Abdelkader

High school students in Arizona walked out of class and rallied outside a local sheriff’s office Monday to protest last week's arrest of a classmate who is now facing possible deportation.

Thomas Torres-Maytorena, 18, was taken into custody and transferred to Customs and Border Protection after a May 2 traffic stop, according to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

During the stop, the teen, who was driving with suspended insurance, told a sheriff’s deputy that he was in the country illegally, the sheriff’s office said.

Family friend Lorena Rodriguez told the Associated Press that Torres-Maytorena — who played football at Desert View High School in Tucson and is scheduled to graduate May 22 — has lived in the United States since he was a toddler.

“People like Thomas are needed in this country,” she wrote on a fundraising page. “He’s a hardworking young man and willing to better his future.”

A spokesman with Sunnyside Unified School District told NBC affiliate KVOA that Torres-Maytorena was scheduled to appear in court the day of his graduation. The United States Attorney’s Office in Arizona did not immediately respond to a request seeking to confirm his court date.

KVOA reported that on Monday roughly 120 students made the trek from Desert View to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. Some carried a massive sign calling the event “Operation Thomas.”

“He’s been working his behind off to be able to graduate,” a classmate told NBC affiliate KVOA. “He’s had sleepless nights to be able to finish his work.”

A Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman confirmed that Torres-Maytorena remained in custody on immigration charges at the agency’s Tucson station.

Tim Stelloh

Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News, based in California.

Rima Abdelkader

Rima Abdelkader is a reporter and producer for NBC News, covering  national and international news.

Associated Press contributed.