More than 200 people marched from Southside Presbyterian Church to the Tucson police headquarters on Stone Avenue Sunday demanding that officers stop working with Border Patrol and calling for immigration reform.
"Humane immigration reform is not possible when you have 33,000 people held daily in over 250 facilities throughout the country," Raúl Alcaraz, a local activist, told a cheering crowd through a megaphone.
Immigration reform means stopping the collaboration between Border Patrol and local law enforcement officers, and repealing Arizona's immigration-enforcement law, SB 1070, he said.
Alcaraz was detained last month after trying to keep Border Patrol agents from arresting a Mexican man stopped by Tucson Police Department officers after a resident called 911 about a possible child abduction.
Tucson police officers cited René Meza Huerta, the driver and father of several of the children, for child-restraint violations and for having a suspended driver's license. When officers determined Meza Huerta was not a legal resident, they called Border Patrol.
This is the second protest outside the Police Department's headquarters in a month. The number of immigration-related protests has picked up momentum across the country, including bus rides carrying demonstrators coast to coast with stops in Tucson and Phoenix.
A renewed focus on comprehensive immigration overhaul has prompted more activity on pro-immigration issues, said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the New York office of the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., that studies the movement of people.
Then there is the success of so-called "Dreamers," teens who were brought to the country illegally by their parents. A bill that would grant them a path to legal status hasn't passed in Congress, but the Obama administration created a program last year that prevents them from being deported and allows them to apply for a renewable work permit.
"A lot of people believe they had success because they took to the streets and the airwaves and congressional offices, and held demonstrations," Chishti said. "People have seen that as another invitation and that showing your activism openly will yield results."
On Sunday, people chanted in English and Spanish, catching the attention of some St. Patrick's Day parade-goers clad in green who snapped pictures as they walked past the police station.
It was the second protest in which Miriam Pérez, 40, had participated.
"I want to call for an end to all deportations," said the Mexico native who has lived illegally in Arizona for 14 years.
It's important to march, she said in Spanish, so government officials see that immigration reform is possible and that they have the support of the people.
At one point, protesters with red shirts with "stop the deportations" on the back and the Spanish translation on the front, sat in the street on a white sheet calling for the separation of police and Border Patrol enforcement. Officers immediately blocked both ends of the street with patrol cars.
No one was arrested, Tucson police officials said.
On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/border
Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo