Within hours of an immigration raid on her family’s home last night, the mother and brother of undocumented immigrant activist Erika Andiola’s family were released from immigration detention this morning. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has indicated that it will likely exercise prosecutorial discretion in their cases, the Huffington Post reported. The swift response came even though Andiola’s mother Maria Arreola and brother Heriberto Andiola Arreola are undocumented, and faced likely deportation.
The flurry of public outrage and social media attention around the case—see the steady stream of tweets on the hashtag #WeAreAndiola—has highlighted two things: the power of the immigrant youth movement and the striking regularity and cruelty with which immigration agents break up everyday families in the country.
On Thursday night immigration officers knocked on Andiola’s Arizona home and asked for her mother, Andiola told reporters on a press call this morning. They handcuffed Arreola and asked Andiola’s older brother Heriberto, who was standing outside the home, if he was related to the family. When he refused to answer questions about his immigration status, he was arrested as well. Both were taken into custody and Andiola was notified that her mother faced imminent deportation because she had a prior outstanding deportation order against her. While in custody, Andiola’s brother told her immigration officers had a file on Andiola herself, and when immigration officers came to her home they did not, as is common practice, ask Andiola for her own status. She has work authorization and a social security number.
But, Andiola, a prominent activist who co-founded the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and has been an outspoken leader of the immigrant youth movement, quickly activated her extensive network, which include powerful national immigration rights organizations like the National Immigration Law Center, America’s Voice and DreamActivist.org. “I immediately started contacting different folks, people in my community and people in the movement,” Andiola said. “Thank God I got a lot of really great support from people I had worked with in the past and right now.” But the vast majority of the over 400,000 immigrants who were deported by President Obama last year did not have their cases amplified by social media and seized upon for quick mobilization by a national movement.