Following several hours of national outrage and mobilization thru social and more conventional media, Dreamers, lawyers, congressional staffers and immigrant activists secured the release of the mother and brother of Erika Andiola, a prominent leader of the “dreamers” in Arizona. They had being arrested Thursday night at their home in Phoenix by undercover immigration agents.
Hours later Erika’s mother, Maria Arriola, 54, was on an ICE bus on the road to Mexico when the driver received a call ordering him to return as Arriola had benefited from “prosecutorial discretion” exercised by ICE.
“My mom was on her way to Mexico. She said the driver turned around when she received a call. She was really confused, than they told her that the reason why she was returning was because her daughter was mobilizing the whole country to get her to comeback. The reality is, you all made it happen! My mami is now home because of your calls. THANK YOU ♥”
Throughout the hours-long drama, from the arrest of Arriola and Erika’s older brother, Heriberto Arriola, 34, various groups and individuals mobilized to secure the release of the two. Heriberto was released in the early morning but it seemed that María Arriola´s deportation was imminent until later today Friday, when ICE announced that it had exercised “prosecutorial discretion” and that she would be released.
“I went to the immigration office at 2 in the morning and they told me that my brother was going to come out but my mom was going to be quickly deported,” Andiola said during a teleconference with immigrant rights leaders later that day. “And my brother said officers had told him literally: we know who your sister is and what she does.”
The theory that ICE agents came to the door of the Arriola-Andiola family because of the dreamer´s activism was used throughout the day by activists.
“We still need to know more, but what was strange is that when I opened the door they just asked my mom and my older brother, who was outside, if he had papers,” said Andiola. “But they did not ask anything about me or my little brother who is 15.”
Both Erika and her little brother are beneficiaries of DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows people younger than 30 who arrived here before they were 16 to gain temporary legal status and a work permit. Erika has both.
David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association AILA, an immigration attorney practicing in Cleveland, Ohio, said that “often local ICE agents act on their own and although there seems to be a horrible conspiracy, what happens is a local bureaucrat made a decision on the case”, said Leopold.
Arizona is an example of a more aggressive policy on the part of both police and local ICE agents, said another national pro-immigration activist. “They are nuts in Arizona,” said the activist who spoke “off the record”.
Maria Elena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, an organization that was mobilized to secure the release of Maria and Heriberto, said the arrest was probably derived from a prior order of deportation Erika’s mother received in 1998 and a traffic stop that happened a few months in Mesa, Arizona.
“She had a 1998 deportation order, she didn´t leave but they never went after her before,” Hincapie said. “Having never left the country, she can now be subject to expedited removal in which she has no right to a judge but the agents themselves can pick up and deport. That is due to the strict laws of the mid-nineties. ”
Both Andiola other activists emphasized that this case is just one example of what is happening across the country to thousands of immigrant families and used it to reiterate the need for comprehensive immigration reform, but also to ask the White House to stop the deportations of people who are not dangerous criminals and separation of families.
“What happened is a real testament to the power of the dreamer movement, the fact that the authorities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, which has jurisdiction over ICE) acted so quickly, but there´s a this is not an isolated case, there´s a larger point here, this is what 400,000 deportations look like, outside the glare of the media”,said Frank Sharry, executive director of America´s Voice
ICE released a statement yesterday which said:
“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. A fuller review of the cases is currently and on-going. ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion on a case by case basis, considering the totality of the circumstances in an individual case”.
I guess a good question is, if Arriola´s case had merited the use of discretion, why did it take a national mobilization to get them to return her to her home if the use of this discretion is the policy of the United States?