Tuesday, November 6, 2007

ARIZONA: Students Walk Out


About 150 students, mostly from Catalina High, took to the streets in protest of a
fellow student that was deported along with his family after authorities found marijuana
in his backpack. The teens were shouting, "We're students, not criminals," and carried
signs that said "keep the migra out of our schools," and "we are students, not terrorists."
They ended up at the Tucson Police Department downtown.

TPD will no longer call Border Patrol to schools, churches

MARY BUSTAMANTE and DAVID L. TEIBEL news@tucsoncitizen.com

The Tucson Police Department will no longer call the Border Patrol to schools or churches when officers determine that suspects in their investigations are illegal immigrants.

The opinion was prompted by a protest and the deportation to Mexico of a man and the voluntary return with him of his wife and two sons.

The family had told police they had been here illegally for six years.

The incident occurred after police were called to TUSD's Catalina High Magnet School Nov. 1 because one of the sons in the family allegedly was found in possession of marijuana there.

School officials said the 17-year-old also appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic substance.

On Tuesday morning, more than 100 students, mostly from Catalina, gathered outside Tucson Police Department headquarters, 270 S. Stone Ave., to protest the removal of the boy and his family by U.S. Border Patrol.

Tucson Police called Border Patrol officials after they had been told by the family that is had been in the country illegally, police officials said.

But the students, some carrying signs including "Migra out of our schools," said they should not be afraid they are going to be yanked from their classrooms by immigration police.

In Arizona, all public school districts are forbidden by law to deny an education to any school-age child living here, Tucson Unified School District officials said.

The district's feeling on the issue was clear.

"We don't want immigration laws enforced on our campuses," said TUSD Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer.

He, deputy superintendent Patti Lopez and police officials including Assistant Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor, met as the protesters waited in a orderly fashion outside the station.

Pfeuffer said Villaseñor came out to speak with students after their meeting and pointed out the Border Patrol never would have been called by police if police hadn't been called to the school for criminal activity.

Villaseñor said police have to ask the question of citizenship when they are taking someone into custody.

But community activist Isabel Garcia questioned that action. And, she added, "you should not have called Border Patrol onto campus."

Villaseñor said Tuesday afternoon that TPD would no longer call the Border Patrol to churches or schools, although it will cooperate with Border Patrol.

The removal of the family prompted rumors of high school immigration raids, hotly denied by police and TUSD authorities.

The peaceful demonstration started about 10:15 a.m. and lasted about two hours.

"We should be safe in school," said Ener Lopez, 14, a ninth-grader at Catalina High, 3645 E. Pima St.

Araceli Sanchez, also 14 and a ninth-grader at the school, conceded the arrested 17-year-old student and his family were in the United States illegally, "but, he was just another student."

"We think that shouldn't be allowed, because school is where we're supposed to be safe," said Mario Portillo, 16, a Catalina 11th-grader whom students identified as one of the protest organizers.

"No matter if you're an illegal alien, you have the right to an education," Portillo said.

"How can we learn if we've scared the border patrol is going to come for us," said senior Jorge Guerrero, 18.

Pfeuffer told students at the demonstration that although "the school's got to be a safe place. . . . Obviously, we can't condone illegal activity."

Villaseñor concurred. "We can't lose sight of the fact that police were there because there was criminal activity going on," he said.


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