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.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
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.

Associated Press contributed.