Story by Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor - email
TUCSON, AZ (AP) - Immigrant rights supporters rallied outside the downtown headquarters of the Tucson Police Department to protest the arrests of two men.
A day labor organizer in Tucson was pepper sprayed and arrested after he lay down underneath a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle in an unsuccessful bid to thwart the arrest of another man.
It happened on Sunday afternoon, near the intersection of 24th and 9th streets in the South Side.
Tucson police spokesman Fabian Pacheco said day labor organizer Raul Alcaraz Ochoa was pepper sprayed Saturday after he refused to come out from underneath the Border Patrol vehicle.
Pacheco said Alcaraz was protesting the arrest of a driver whose vehicle was pulled over after officers got a call from someone reported two children being put into a car trunk.
Police were concerned about the possibility of child abduction.
Once they questioned him, police say they did a records check and discovered that the driver, Rene Meza Huerta had a suspended licence. They also noticed 4 out of 5 children in the hatchback were not restrained in child safety seats, as required by law.
Pacheco says the officer had reason to suspect Huertha was an illegal immigrant, and contacted Border Patrol.
Dozens of protesters showed up outside TPD headquarters downtown. They chanted, and held up signs accusing police of racially profiling, and saying they were tearing families apart.
Ochoa, who had just been released from jail showed up at the protest and spoke to Tucson News Now, saying he felt compelled to lay down in front of the border patrol vehicle.
"I felt it was necessary to do this to bring spotlight to detentions and family deportations," said Ochoa.
Ochoa said police should not have contacted immigration, saying the traffic citations had nothing to do with a mans immigration status.
Lt. Pacheco stood behind his officers, saying they had followed procedure.
"The officers are required, they are mandated to conduct an immigration check. We contacted border patrol and border patrol decided to respond," said Pacheco.
Pacheco added that SB 1070 required officers to contact Border Patrol when they made any arrests during traffic stops.
Ochoa said police should find loopholes in the law and get around it.
"There are certain loopholes in SB 1070 they can take, to not have to create this terror and family separation in our community," said Ochoa.
We asked him what loopholes he was talking about. Ochoa said there was a loophole in the law that stated that police did not have to contact Immigration if it interfered with another investigation they were conducting.
Lt. Pacheco said he was not aware of any loopholes in the law, and their job was to enforce the law as it was written.
"The Tucson police department conducted themselves in accordance with our established rules and procedures, our general orders. They also notified and conducted immigration check as required and mandated by the law," said Pacheco.
Huertha is being detained by Border Patrol. Local immigrant advocates continue to demand that he be released.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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