Up to 70 detainees who were on the buses blocked by a Tucson protest Friday have now been deported through Calexico, Calif., and Del Rio, Texas, said Margo Cowan, a Tucson attorney and activist.
They had crossed the border into Arizona but were deported through other states under the Alien Transfer Exit Program, which is designed to make any illegal return trip into the United States more difficult and break the smuggling cycle.
The Mexican Consulate in Tucson declined comment and referred all calls to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., which couldn’t be reached Saturday. The U.S. Border Patrol’s public information office is closed due to the partial shutdown of the federal government.
More than 20 protesters were arrested or detained in Tucson Friday after they linked themselves together with plastic piping to block the federal courthouse parking lot and stop the two buses of detainees headed to court to be criminally prosecuted for immigration offenses.
It was the first time the program called Operation Streamline was canceled because of an act of civil disobedience since it started in Texas in 2005, organizers said. The fast-track program was created to discourage unauthorized migration by giving prison sentences and a criminal record to those apprehended at the border.
The protesters said they are frustrated that comprehensive immigration-reform legislation has stalled in Congress.