Immigrant rights activist Erika Andiola penned an open letter to her Arizona senators, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, urging them to defend immigrant families after experiencing the horrors of the immigration detention firsthand last Thursday. Media-savvy and well-connected, Andiola was able to win rapid release of her mother Maria Arreola and Heriberto Andiola after they were detained by immigration agents last week. But immediately upon their release, Andiola used her unique position to highlight just how common and unjust her family’s brush with near-deportation was.
Andiola, who cofounded the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and also serves as the government relations director for the D.C.-based undocumented youth lobbying organization DRM Capitol Group, wrote to McCain and Flake:
Thursday night I heard a banging knock at the door. I looked through the window and immigration agents asked me to open the door because they were conducting an “investigation”. They asked for Maria, my mother, and as soon she stepped out they abruptly pulled her with force and handcuffed her in front of me and Angel, my 16 year old brother. They also detained my older brother for no cause. Angel pointed out to them that they needed to take her medications because of her cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. They laughed at his face told and ignored him. I felt helpless. Under this horrific scenario I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to run and pull them both away from them but I couldn’t.
I spent an entire night crying and lonely. At every corner of my house, my mother and brother’s touches and memories were there. The most important people in my life had been taken from me.