Erika Andiola, a young undocumented immigrant and activist, may be free from the threat of raids and deportation, but her family is another story.
On Thursday night, Andiola's home in Arizona was raided by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, who knocked on her door then arrested her mother, Maria Arreola, after she opened to check on her visitors. When her older brother refused to provide documentation of his own legal status, he was brought in as well.
"My mother came out of her room without really understanding what was happening, just that there was a really strong knock on the door," Andiola, a co-founder of DRM Action Coalition and nationally prominent supporter of the DREAM Act, told reporters over the phone. "They went ahead and handcuffed her right in front of me and my younger brother, who is 16 years old."
After reaching out to her friends in the activist community to help protest her family's treatment, Andiola recorded a heartbreaking video on YouTube recounting the raid.
Andiola and her younger brother have legal status through the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, an executive order by President Obama last year that halts deportations for immigrants under age 31 who entered the country illegally before age 16. That means Erika's house is divided between family members who enjoy some legal status and those who live under fear of deportation.
It's possible that will change soon. The White House and its allies are preparing an all-out push to pass legislation providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants of all ages, a group that would likely include Arreola, but in the meantime their status is still a constant burden. Immigrant rights activists, who have long complained that the administration has not done enough to restrain ICE in recent years, say Andiola's harrowing experience is only the latest example of the struggles immigrants face as a result. A record 410,000 people were deported in 2012, and a recent report by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute found that ICE's $18 billion in spending over that same period was more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.
"While we get legislative reform, the president can act now," Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, told reporters in a conference call Friday. "He can lead and ensure that Maria Arreola and the tens of thousands of other immigrants who qualify for deferred action now can get it so they don't have to fear the risk of deportation while they wait for immigration reform."
Fortunately for Andiola, her mother and older brother are set to be released. But she's still puzzling out why her mother was targeted in the first place. She told reporters that ICE informed her that Arreola had a prior order for removal stemming from 1998. Last month, her mother was stopped for speeding and fingerprinted by Arizona police when she couldn't produce identification, allowing police -- now empowered by state law to identify illegal immigrants -- to refer her to ICE.
"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," ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez told TPM Friday in a statement responding to questions about the Andiola case. "A fuller review of the cases is currently on-going. ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, considering the totality of the circumstances in an individual case."
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