Immigration agents raided the Arizona home of Erika Andiola, a prominent undocumented young activist, Thursday night and arrested her mother and older brother.
With tears streaming down her cheeks, Andiola told the story of how several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stormed into her home Thursday night and arrested her 55-year-old mother, Maria Arreola, and 35-year-old brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola.
“I’ve been seeing ICE detain family members of dreamers and now it was my turn to experience that with my own family,” Andiola said.
Erika Andiola’s family members are released
Andiola’s brother, who is the father of two U.S. citizen children, was released Friday around 6 am. Nearly four hours later, Andiola received the news that her mother would also be released after spending several hours in the Florence Detention Center, which is about 65 miles from Phoenix.
“We just got the news that she is on her way here,” Andiola told dozens of dreamers and allies who gathered Friday morning outside the Phoenix ICE office to show their support. “I want to thank all of you guys who are here … and the entire community across the country that was there with me until 4 a.m.”
The group burst into applause when they heard the news, but Andiola cautioned that “the nightmare is not over.” She noted that there are still thousands of families being separated each day under the Obama administration.
“This is the year that we need to do something,” she said. “We cannot wait for another family to be torn apart. At this moment, as we speak, there’s probably many families that are being torn apart.”
Andiola is a long-time activists pushing for the DREAM Act and immigration reform. She has served as a board member for the United We Dream Network and is a co-founder of the Arizona DREAM ACT Coalition. Last year, she led a movement of dreamers who opposed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney after he said he would veto the DREAM Act if he were elected.
Her mother, who goes by the name of Guadalupe, is involved with an Arizona group that’s made up of parents who advocates for dreamers. In December, she attended the United We Dream National Congress where she spoke with VOXXI about her daughter’s advocacy work and the need to pass an immigration reform.
On Friday afternoon, dozens gathered outside the Phoenix ICE office to celebrate the release of Andiola’s mother and brother. Her mother told the crowd she was already on a bus heading to Mexico early Friday morning when the driver was given instructions to turn the bus around and bring her back.
Andiola’s mother was then taken to Phoenix where she was released and reunited with her family. She was also given permission by ICE to stay in the country for one year as well as the ability to apply for a work permit.
“I was really scared last night, because I automatically started thinking of my family, what is going to happen, are we going to be separated, am I going to see them again?” she said in Spanish. “It was a horrible feeling.”
Erika Andiola’s brother describes arrests
Heriberto told VOXXI he was outside his home in Mesa, Arizona, when the agents pulled up in undercover vehicles. They told him they were looking for Maria Arreola and proceeded to go inside the home. Once inside, they said they had an arrest warrant for the mother, because she had been previously deported.
In 1998, Arreola was fleeing domestic violence when she attempted to enter the United States by presenting an alleged false document to an immigration officer at one of Arizona’s international port of entries. At that time, an immigration officer apprehended her and detained her for presenting the false document. She was then issued an order of removal and was returned to Mexico. Arreola re-entered days later with her children and has been living in Arizona ever since.
Heriberto said seeing his mother in handcuffs made him feel angry and impotent, because he knew he couldn’t do anything to help her.
“It’s a horrible feeling,” he told VOXXI. “What harm can my mother of 55 year olds do this country?”
He also recalled that while he was detained, he saw a file full of photos of Andiola and newspaper clippings featuring her. He added that the ICE agents didn’t give a reason to why they were arresting him and that they didn’t have an arrest warrant to enter the home.
Jose Peñalosa, an immigration attorney in Arizona, told VOXXI the agents weren’t required to have an arrest warrant, because they had a reason to suspect that Andiola’s mother was inside the house.He added that the mother was fortunate to be released. That’s because when ICE conducts raids late at night, the individuals they apprehend during the raid are usually deported by early morning, he explained.
ICE says Erika Andiola’s activism didn’t prompt arrests
Peñalosa also said he suspects that the national attention the case attracted could’ve motivated ICE to release Andiola’s family members though ICE officials dispute that.
As soon as news broke about Andiola’s mother and brother being detained, dreamers from across the country and national organizations—including United We Dream Network, America’s Voice, National Immigration Law Center and Presente.org—mobilized to help with their release. Petitions and text message alerts were sent out, asking people to call ICE and request that Andiola’s mother and brother be released.
ICE officials were quick to say that Andiola’s activism didn’t prompt the arrests. ICE Press Secretary Barbara Gonzales also told The Associated Press that Andiola’s relatives were released because ICE exercised its case-by-case discretion based on initial reviews. Gonzalez added, “A fuller review of the cases is currently ongoing.”
In a statement, United We Dream Network called the arrests “the latest case of a government agency out of control.” It also stated that ICE “continues to target hardworking members of the community, contradicting the commitments made to the Latino and immigrant community by the President.”
“This is what the Administration’s record setting number of deportations looks like,” United We Dream Network added.
Watch video: Erika Andiola Story