The mother and brother of a prominent immigrant rights activist in Mesa, Ariz., were released today after being arrested and detained last night by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Erika Andiola is a well-known face among DREAMers and serves as the political director for the DRM Action Coalition, a group that lobbies for immigration legislation. After she wrote about the arrests on her Facebook page last night, news spread like wildfire across social networks and on blogs. Petitions garnered thousands of signatures throughout the night and organizations like Dream Activist and United We Dream mobilized their members in response.
According to Andiola, plainclothes immigration agents came to her family's home last night and knocked on the front door. "We didn't find out they were immigration till we opened the door," she said.
Andiola's mother, Maria Arreola, had a standing deportation order from 1998, according to José Peñalosa, an immigration lawyer representing the family. Peñalosa said that at that time, Arreola attempted to enter the country legally, but did not have the proper documents.
Arreola's case may have come to the attention of federal immigration officials after an arrest in September. Arreola was arrested for speeding, driving without a license and not being able to produce identification. At the time, Erika and her mother told the press the arrest was linked to SB 1070, Arizona's "show me your papers" law. Local police sent Arreola's name to federal immigration authorities, but she was released from custody, a local CBS affiliate reported.
However, Andiola said that she wasn't sure if the deportation order was the only reason immigration agents targeted her home last night. Andiola said that agents also questioned her brother, who was outside speaking with a neighbor. Her brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola, was also taken into custody. He was released today but only after a deportation case was opened against him, according to the family's immigration lawyer.
ICE issued a statement about the case this morning. "Although one individual had been previously removed from the country, an initial review of these cases revealed that certain factors outlined in ICE's prosecutorial discretion policy appear to be present and merit an exercise of discretion," Barbara Gonzalez, ICE press secretary, said in the statement. "A fuller review of the cases is currently on-going."
The family's immigration lawyer said that Arreola was given prosecutorial discretion lasting one year upon release, an unusual outcome.
Alongside Erika Andiola, Arreola and her son are also relatively prominent figures advocating for immigrant rights in Arizona. According to a press release by United We Dream about Andiola, "she and her family are well known to ICE leadership in Arizona, who have challenged their tactics for years."
Since the White House has touted immigration reform as a "top priority" in 2013, the role of immigration enforcement has taken center stage. A report released earlier this week showed that spending on immigration enforcement outweighs the cumulative spending of all major federal criminal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
This particular case shows the human impact of immigration enforcement in a state best known for battles over the issue.
Andiola is also one of the more than 100,000 Dreamers to be approved for President Barack Obama's deferred action program, which allows undocumented young people to live in the U.S. without threat of deportation and apply for a work permit. In December, she posted a picture of her newly received Social Security card to Facebook, saying, "the nine digit magic number that has made my life impossible for such a long time has just arrived."
During the ordeal, Andiola posted updates on her Twitter account:
"My mother and my brother were taken from my house today right in front of me and my little brother by #ICE. Is this how it feels? #WTF," she tweeted in the early morning.
Updated: Jan. 11, 2013, 3:50pm EST