Marchers: TPD should not call in Border Patrol
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Marchers: TPD should not call in Border Patrol

Demanding a change in Tucson Police Department policy, more than 200 people marched from Southside Presbyterian Church to TPD's headquarters on Sunday afternoon.

The march for justice and dignity was part of a nationwide campaign called Ni Una Deportacion Mas (Not One More Deportation) which includes more than a dozen events across the nation during March, including an event in Phoenix on March 11.

While immigration reform gathers momentum in Washington, the connection between the Tucson Police Department and Customs and Border Protection remains complicated by the requirements of Arizona's SB 1070 and federal law.

Råul Alcarez Ochoa, an organizer of the march, believes that Tucson police are failing the community when they follow SB 1070's requirement to determine the immigration status of those they arrest.

"The community remains in danger so long as police contact Border Patrol. We ask the police department to use the tools within SB 1070 to go around the law rather than defying it," he said.

Protestors demanded the end of cooperation between Border Patrol and local law enforcement, as well as the repeal of the state law that targeted illegal immigrants. Much of that measure has been thrown out by the courts since it was passed in 2010. A section that was allowed to go ahead requires police to determine the immigration status of everyone they arrest.

Opponents of the law have called on Tucson police to use what they call a "loophole" in which police could say that determining an arrestee's immigration status would endanger an investigation.

While the TPD public information office was closed Sunday and Monday and no one was available for comment, Chief Roberto Villaseñor has said that he will enforce SB 1070 even though he disagrees with the law.

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Sunday, as marchers assembled in front of TPD, the crowd chanted slogans and, at one moment six women unfurled a banner and draped it across Stone Avenue. They sat on the banner and waited as media and marchers crowded around them. Police cordoned off the block, but made no arrests.

Luz Vogel, 25, from Tucson stood in front of police headquarters along with four other women dressed in red. She wore a mask made of chicken wire and decorated with handcuffs.

"I live here and as long as someone can be oppressed any one of us can," Vogel said. "This is a dangerous place to live and it needs to stop."

Fernando Lopez, 22, from Phoenix came to show support. A recent immigrant himself, Lopez worries about undocumented and illegal immigrants.

"People need to realize that these issues are because of the lack of opportunities in Mexico," he said. "I'm affected by this and it moves me to do something. That's reality."

Sunday's march was the second protest sparked when Ochoa was arrested last month when he tried to stop Border Patrol from arresting Rene Meza Huerta, who was in the United States illegally and was subsequently deported to Mexico.

The arrests set off a protest in front of police headquarters. Ochoa's case is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Attorney, but that isn't stopping him from advocating for reform.

"I'm not going to allow my immigration status or fear, keep me from doing things to help the community," he said.

In August 2012, the City Council declared Tucson an "Immigrant Welcoming City" and Villaseñor has joined with other law enforcement officials to oppose SB1070.

Despite this, Ochoa said that more than 20 workers connected with Southside Workers Center have been detained by Border Patrol after contact with Tucson police.

"They've been arrested and separated from their families and the police don't need to do this," said Ochoa.

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