Who Is Thomas Torres? New Details On The Arizona High School Senior Being Detained By ICE

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Who Is Thomas Torres? New Details On The Arizona High School Senior Being Detained By ICE

An 18-year-old high school senior is supposed to be finishing his last weeks of high school and preparing to graduate. But instead, Thomas Torres-Maytorena is in custody at an ICE facility in Arizona awaiting trial on immigration charges. Torres was pulled over in a routine traffic stop but was unable to produce a driver's license to show officers. At the time, he admitted that he was undocumented and the officer cited him for expired tags and driving without a license before calling Border Patrol to arrest him. He has been in ICE custody since then and is facing immigration charges that could result in being deported to Mexico, a country he has not lived in since he was a toddler. Torres’s friends and family are rallying behind him, hoping that he can be released to return to school and graduate with his classmates.  Students have even staged a walkout to show support for him. Who is Thomas Torres? Read on for all the details.

1. Thomas

According to reporting by The Heavy, Lorena Rodriguez, a “long-time family friend” of Torres’ says that 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 has been living with Rodriguez and attending a local high school, where he plays sports and does well academically. Rodriguez says he has taken on what work he can, considering his immigration status, including yard work and restaurant work. He is mere weeks from his high school graduation date and Rodriguez says that his cap and gown are hanging in his bedroom. It’s unclear if he will be able to attend his own graduation ceremony, as he is currently in an ICE detention facility.

Torres is only weeks from graduation.

2. Traffic stop

According to the New York Times, the sheriff’s incident report indicates that a deputy conducted a traffic stop. He discovered Thomas was driving and two other men were in the car. Thomas couldn’t produce a drivers license, probably because without immigration paperwork he isn’t eligible to have a license in Arizona. He admitted to police that he was an “undocumented illegal immigrant” with an “overstayed visa.” The deputy then placed him in the patrol car and called Border Control officers. Customs and Border Control now have the 18-year-old in custody and say that he is facing immigration charges that could result in deportation to Mexico.

Torres was detained when a sheriff's deputy called Border Enforcement after a routine traffic stop.

RELATED: How The U.S. Detention Centers Traumatize Immigrant Children For Life (As Told By A Japanese Internment Survivor)

3. Dreamer

Thomas is said to have arrived in the United States as a toddler with his mother and siblings. Under a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), young people in that situation were eligible to apply to not only remain in the U.S., but apply to college, get a work permit and get a drivers license — privileges usually denied to undocumented immigrants. The Trump White House cut off the program in 2018, allowing those already approved to remain but no new approvals would be granted. It is unknown if Thomas ever applied for the program.

Torres might have been eligible for protection uder DACA, had the White House not eliminated the program.

4. Solidarity

Hundreds of students are rallying in support of Thomas. 200 of his fellow students walked out of school and marched three miles to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department where they staged a rally and press conference to ask for their classmate to be released. Thomas' friend Daffne Anselmo said: “We’re here to get our friend back. This shouldn’t be happening right now. Thomas should be in class. We all should be in class.” The New York Times reports that Anselmo went on to express fear, saying: “We feel that any of us could be taken.” He said they could be detained “just because of a race that we are.”

The arrest has shaken his school community.

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RELATED: How The Policy Of Separating Immigrant Children From Their Families Is Causing Americans To Break Ties With Their Own

5. Legal Help

Family friend Lorena Rodriguez has started a GoFundMe to assist with Thomas’s legal fees. The site says “Yesterday, Thomas was picked up by border portal [sic] 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.” 

Friends are begging for financial help for his legal fees.

The hearing regarding the traffic charges is scheduled for May 22, the day Thomas is scheduled to graduate from high school.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.