TUCSON, Ariz. - At least 12 activists were arrested Friday morning in Tucson after they chained themselves to buses full of people awaiting a deportation hearing. The effort shut down the government's deportation hearings for the day.
The buses en route to the federal courthouse carried 70 immigrants who had crossed the border illegally. They were caught up in a daily mass deportation program called Operation Streamline.
Protesters stopped the buses after the vehicles turned off the highway. Then the activists chained themselves to the front tires. Others used bike locks to secure themselves to the courthouse gates.
Angie Loreta was among those protesting immigration agents' tactics. Her arms were chained behind her.
"They basically strip them of any kind of rights and so it's enough. We are using our bodies as a shield to say we want Streamline to end," Loreta said.
Federal border agents and Tucson police moved in after three hours to cut the locks with power saws. Immigrant protests have flared across the country in recent weeks, but this was one of the few where government operations were blocked.
Activist Isabel Garcia said it's not the last.
"Yes. We are part of a broader movement of course to say stop criminalizing us, stop deporting us, we are residents in this country we demand full justice and dignity," Garcia said.
A federal judge sent a message to law enforcement sources saying that Streamline was canceled for the day.
Planned for Monday is a shutdown of Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations in Phoenix.