Protests mark arrest of activist in illegal entrant's detention

2013-02-19T00:00:00Z 2013-02-19T07:54:34Z Protests mark arrest of activist in illegal entrant's detentionPerla Trevizo and Veronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Several organizations protested Monday the arrest by the Border Patrol of a community activist who was trying to stop another man from being arrested.

Raúl Alcaráz Ochoa was arrested by agents along with the other man, Rene Meza Huerta, 30, after a traffic stop by Tucson police. Meza Huerta was determined to be in the country illegally.

The Border Patrol said Monday that Alcaráz Ochoa was arrested after he tried to prevent Meza Huerta's detention. The agency said he failed to follow agents' orders and lay down beneath a patrol vehicle to prevent officers from leaving.

About 200 people protested Monday in front of Tucson Police Department headquarters downtown.

The incident happened Sunday afternoon, when Tucson police officers were called to the area of North Flowing Wells Road and West Miracle Mile to investigate a child-abuse call, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a Tucson police spokesman.

A person called 911 and reported seeing a man put three children into the back seat of a car and two children in the trunk, Widmer said. An officer saw the described vehicle driving near South Ninth Avenue and West 23rd Street and pulled it over. The location is near Southside Presbyterian Church, where Alcaráz Ochoa is a member of a program that helps day laborers find jobs.

Two children were in the cargo space of the hatchback car, Widmer said.

Meza Huerta, the driver and father to several of the children, was cited for civil child restraint violations and for having a suspended driver's license, a criminal offense, Widmer said.

State laws require officers to check a person's immigration status through Customs and Border Protection if a person is going to be cited and released for criminal violations, Widmer said.

Officers determined Meza Huerta was not a legal citizen and called Border Patrol to take him into custody, Widmer said.

Alcaráz Ochoa said he was riding his bike to the church when he came upon the scene. He said he did not know Meza Huerta.

Alcaráz Ochoa, a legal permanent resident, eventually placed himself under a Border Patrol vehicle to prevent agents from leaving with Meza Huerta, a Border Patrol news release said.

Alcaráz Ochoa was arrested by agents after "failing to respond to repeated warnings and refusing to move from beneath the vehicle," according to the statement from Border Patrol officials.

He was pepper-sprayed by agents as they tried to remove him.

Lt. Fabian Pacheco, a Tucson police spokesman, said the department had nothing to do with the arrest of Alcaráz Ochoa. He said the "law mandates that we verify the immigration status when they are under arrest."

"We don't get to pick and choose which laws we enforce and which we don't," Pacheco said.

Alcaráz Ochoa was released from custody Monday but faces charges of interfering with a federal officer. Meza Huerta was still in custody as of Monday afternoon, his family said.

On StarNet: Follow the news and events at Pima County's courthouses in Kim Smith's blog, At the Courthouse, at azstarnet.com/courthouse

Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at ptrevizo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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