ICE raids DREAMer's home, detains mother, brother

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The mother and brother of an outspoken DREAMer taken away in handcuffs after an ICE raid that many immigration-reform advocates are calling political.

ICE agents raided the home of Erika Andiola Thursday night. They took her mother and older brother into custody. While the brother was released, reportedly because he has a family and kids, Andiola's mother remained in custody in Florence, the specter of deportation hanging over her head.

"We know they have discretion. We know they have the power to let her go," a tearful Andiola said Friday morning. "They're not doing it. I don't know what it is. … If it's something against me, they don't have to do this. … My mom hasn't done anything wrong."

According to a Twitter post, Andiola's brother told her their mother was to be deported "first thing in the morning."

In a tweet posted just after 7 a.m., Andiola pleaded for President Barack Obama to intervene.

While ICE personnel cannot comment directly on the Andiola raid, the agency issued a short statement Friday morning.

“One of two individuals detained by ICE in Phoenix, AZ has been released. The other individual will be released imminently. 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 on-going. ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, considering the totality of the circumstances in an individual case.”

Andiola's mom, Maria, who was stopped by police last Fall and has a previous order for deportation, was taken to Florence where and loaded onto a bus headed for Mexico.  That's when her attorney says she was released in an unprecedented fashion.

"Fifteen minutes into the ride there was a phone call to the busand the driver took the call with the other agents then turned around and brought her back to Florence," said attorney Jose Penalosa. "Erika is very involved with the Dream Act and knows a lot of Senators.  I'm sure they exercised their influence in this case."

Penalosa doesn't believe the arrests were politically motivated but he believes the releases were.

"I believe the release was politically motivated but done under the policy of prosecutorial discretion."

Andiola, who was featured in a Time Magazine story about DREAMers, has appeared on national television with her mom and is well-known nationwide.

In a satellite interview in June, 3TV's Javier Soto asked Andiola why she hadn't gone "through the proper channels to become a citizen?"

"We had no money and we're just trying to survive," Andiola answered, explaining that her family left Mexico to escape domestic violence. "My mother has been trying to get her papers, but it's been a mess."

A graduate of Arizona State University, Andiola was brought to the U.S. illegally when she was 11 years old. In recent years she has become a national face of immigration reform, having worked with some of Obama's senior officials and members of Congress.

Andiola is former board member of the United We Dream Network of immigrant youth and leader of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.

An ICE spokeswoman told 3TV via email that the raid had nothing to do with Andiola's activism on the issue of immigration reform.

"ICE agents did not target these individuals because of their family member’s role with the Dream Act Coalition," according to ICE. "Additionally, this arrest had absolutely nothing to do with DACA; instead, it was based on information from a prior arrest."

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Obama announced in June.

When DACA officially launched in August, thousands of DREAMers throughout the country, including Andiola, applied for consideration. While it is not a path to citizenship, DACA allows some individuals to remain in the U.S. if they meet five specific criteria and opens the way for them to apply for work permits. Cases are decided on an individual basis.

Both Erika and her younger brother qualified and have received social security numbers and work visas. Her older brother and mom doesn't meet the age qualification.

"DREAMers" are those who support the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), which would allow permanent residency for certain illegal immigrants who meet some very specific requirements.

In September, not long after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the so-called "show me your papers" portion of SB 1070, police stopped Andiola's mother for allegedly speeding. She was taken to jail when she could not give officers proper identification.

Under the "show me your papers" provision of Arizona's controversial immigration law, police can check the status of criminals or traffic violators they suspect are not in the United States legally.

The decision upheld the "show me your papers" requirement, but it took the teeth out of it by prohibiting police officers from arresting people on minor immigration charges.