Federal immigration agents raided the home of Erika Andiola, an undocumented immigrant and co-founder of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, and detained her mother and brother, who are also undocumented. Initially, Andiola tweeted that her brother told her that her mom would be deported “first thing in the morning.” Her brother was released early, and it was later announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials would exercise prosecutorial discretion to release Andiola’s mother, Maria Arreola.
Before Andiola’s mother was released, the immigrant rights community quickly organized a protest outside of the Department of Homeland Security’s office and calls to state and federal offices asking for her family’s release.
This is not the first example of an immigrant’s deportation being halted because of media and grassroots attention to the case. In June, a young undocumented immigrant was granted a one-year deportation reprieve one day after the Washington Post wrote a story about her case. “It makes me extremely sad that we had to go through all of this…to stop one deportation,” Andiola said on a call with reporters. “We don’t have to do this.”
Marielena Hincapié, executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, said this case is another example of why the nation needs immigration reform. Even though Maria Arreola has been released, there is no guarantee that Andiola’s mother won’t be picked up by ICE agents again because she has a previous removal order from 1988. The only certainty would be if the Obama administration granted her deferred action. “We cannot keep fighting these deportation cases on dreamer at a time, one worker at a time, one family at a time,” Hincapié said.
There have been a record number of deportations under President Obama, and last year, the Obama administration announced a case-by-case review of deportations to ensure that lower-priority deportation cases “are being set aside so we can focus more on our more serious cases of convicted criminals and other high priority categories.” Obama has taken steps to try to limit deportations that separate families living in the U.S., but as a new report shows that immigration officials detained more people in 2012 than the federal bureau of prisons holds, officials are not using the discretionary policies available.
The U.S. also spends more on immigration enforcement — $18 billion — than every other federal law enforcement agency combined. And in two years, ICE agents have deported more than 200,000 undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens, making up 23 percent of all deportations between July 1, 2010, and Sept. 31, 2012.