WASHINGTON -- The mother and brother of a prominent undocumented immigrant activist were detained late Thursday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, prompting protests and outrage from the immigrant rights community in Phoenix and beyond that called the detention potential retaliation for her activism.
ICE agents detained Maria Arreola and Heriberto Andiola Arreola, the mother and brother of advocacy group DRM Capitol founder Erika Andiola. The agency released Heriberto on Friday morning after Erika and others gathered outside the Department of Homeland Security offices in Phoenix to demand their release. Maria will be released soon, ICE confirmed to The Huffington Post Friday.
"We need to do something, we need to stop separating families," Erika, an Arizona State University graduate, said in a tearful video posted after her mother and brother were detained. "This is real. This is so real. This is not just happening to me, this is happening to families everywhere."
The immigrant rights community quickly sprang to action after the family's detention. Members planned a protest Friday morning outside the DHS office in Phoenix and posted a number and script for those who wanted to call ICE to ask for them to be released.
ICE's move was somewhat surprising given the relative safety of many high-profile undocumented immigrants. As Dreamers in particularly have "come out" en masse as undocumented, many have been spared by ICE. Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who announced in 2011 that he is in the country without authorization, and Erika herself, are prime examples. Some Dreamers -- as they call themselves based on the Dream Act -- are eligible for deferred action to prevent deportation for two years, and Erika was granted that reprieve last year.
But that doesn't mean deportations have stopped, or that outspoken undocumented immigrants and their families are exempt from deportation. The Obama administration broke its record for deportations this year, removing 409,849 immigrants from the country.
At the same time, agencies have increased the proportion of immigrants deported who have been convicted of crimes as part of new prosecutorial discretion policies. ICE will likely use prosecutorial discretion in this case, agency press secretary Barbara Gonzalez told HuffPost in a statement.
"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," she said. "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.”
Another ICE official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the details of the case, said ICE agents did not target the individuals because of Erika's role in Dream Act advocacy.
Immigrant rights advocates released a flurry of statements in response to ICE's actions.
"If this can happen to the family of Erika Andiola, a national leader of the immigrant rights movement and a member of the Presente family, it can happen to any immigrant family in the United States," Arturo Carmona, executive Director of Presente.org, said in a statement. "What is the Obama Administration saying with this action? We condemn I.C.E. for abusing its authority to 'pay back' our friend and outspoken immigrant leader, Erika Andiola, for her immigrant rights activism by arresting and detaining her mother, Maria, and her brother, Heriberto."
UPDATE: 2:20 p.m. -- Erika Andiola released a statement on Friday afternoon telling her side of the story and claiming that ICE agents spoke to her brother about her activism work.
"On several occasions they told me things about the case and my mother that were not true," she wrote. "My brother told me that not only did ICE have profiles of my mother and brother but also of me, and they told him 'We know all about your sister, we know about what your sister does, and you should get away from that.'"
Read her full statement here.
CORRECTION: This article originally misstated Maria Arreola's last name as Andiola, and her son Heriberto Andiola Arreola's name as Heriberto Andiola.
Watch Andiola reacting to the detention of her mother and brother:
Also on HuffPost:
The Template: California Proposition 187 (1994)
California's Proposition 187 was submitted to the voters with the full support of then Republican governor Pete Wilson. It essentially blamed undocumented immigrants for the poor performance of the state economy in the early 1990s. The law called for cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants: prohibiting their access to health care, public education, and other social services in California. It also required state authorities to report anyone who they suspected was undocumented. <strong>Status:</strong> The law passed with the support of 55 percent of the voters in 1994 but declared unconstitutional 1997. The law was killed in 1999 when a new governor, Democrat Gray Davis, refused to appeal a judicial decision that struck down most of the law. Even though short-lived, the legislation paved the way for harsher immigration laws to come. On the other hand, the strong reaction from the Hispanic community and immigration advocates propelled a drive for naturalization of legal residents and created as many as one million new voters.
The Worst: Arizona SB 1070
The Arizona Act made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be within the state lines of Arizona without legal documents allowing their presence in the U.S. This law has been widely criticized as xenophobic and for encouraging racial profiling. It requires state authorities to inquire about an individual's immigration status during an arrest when there is "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is undocumented. The law would allow police to detain anyone who they believe was in the country illegally. <strong>Status:</strong> The law was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. But it has generated a swirl of controversy and questions about its constitutionality. A federal judge issued a ruling that blocked what critics saw as some of the law's harshest provisions. House: 35-31 (4/12/2011)
Following Arizona's Footsteps: Georgia HB 87
The controversy over Arizona's immigration law was followed by heated debate over Georgia's own law. HB 87 required government agencies and private companies to check the immigration status of applicants. This law also limited some government benefits to people who could prove their legal status. <strong>Status:</strong> Although a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law considered too extreme, it went into effect on July 1st. 2011. House: 113-56 Senate: 39-17
Verifying Authorized Workers: Pennsylvania HB 1502
This bill, which was approved in 2010, bans contractors and subcontractors employ undocumented workers from having state construction contracts. The bill also protects employees who report construction sites that hire illegal workers. To ensure that contractors hire legal workers, the law requires employers to use the identification verification system E-verify, based on a compilation of legally issued Social Security numbers. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved on June 8th 2010. House: 188-6 (07/08/2010) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey</a>
A Spin Off of Arizona: Utah HB 497
Many states tried to emulate Arizona's SB 1070 law. However, most state legislatures voted against the proposals. Utah's legislature managed to approve an immigration law based on a different argument. Taking into consideration the criticism of racial profiling in Arizona, Utah required ID cards for "guest workers" and their families. In order to get such a card workers must pay a fee and have clean records. The fees go up to $2,500 for immigrants who entered the country illegally and $1,000 for immigrants who entered the country legally but were not complying with federal immigration law, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/06/nation/la-na-illegal-immigration-20110306" target="_hplink">according to the LA Times.</a> <strong>Status: </strong> Law went into effect on 03/15/2011 House: 59-15 (03/04/2011) Senate: 22-5 (03/04/2011)
The Most Comprehensive: Florida HB-1C
Florida's immigration law prohibits any restrictions on the enforcement of federal immigration law. It makes it unlawful for undocumented immigrants within the state to apply for work or work as an independent contractor. It forbids employers from hiring immigrants if they are aware of their illegal status and requires work applicants to go through the E-verify system in order to check their Social Security number. <strong>Status: </strong>effective since October 1st, 2010
The Hot Seat: Alabama HB 56
The new immigration law in Alabama is considered the toughest in the land, even harder than Arizona's SB 1070. It prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space. The law also prohibits landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants, and employers from hiring them. It requires residents to prove they are citizens before they become eligible to vote. The law asked every school in the state to submit an annual report with the number of presumed undocumented students, but this part, along with others, were suspended by federal courts. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved June 2nd, 2011 House: 73-28 (04/05/2011) Senate: 23-11 (05/05/2011) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/longislandwins/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by longislandwins</a>