Erika Andiola, a well-known immigrant rights leader, watched Thursday night as agents handcuffed and took away her mother and adult brother from their Phoenix home--arrests that sparked swift outrage among activists like her across the nation.
Organizations released scores of statements condemning the action. Federal officials were bombarded with petitions and calls for the release of Andiola’s mother, Maria Arreola, and brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola. Both are suspected of being in the country illegally.
By Friday morning both mother and son had been released. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said their case warranted a further review and “exercise in discretion” in keeping with policies of the Obama administration.
“My mom was on the way to Mexico,” Andiola posted on Facebook. “She said the driver turned around when she received a call. She was really confused.... They told her that the reason why she was returning was because her daughter was mobilizing the whole country to get her to come back.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigrant rights group, said cases like Andiola’s are routine.
“This is what 400,000 deportations a year looks like," he said, referencing the record number of deportations last year.
Andiola and other immigrant activists wonder if her family was targeted because of her high-profile activism.
An ICE spokeswoman said that the mother and son were was not targeted because of Andiola’s activism. She has been a supporter of the Dream Act movement to give legal status to young people brought the U.S. unlawfully as children.
“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,” said Barbara Gonzalez, ICE press secretary. “A fuller review of the cases is currently ongoing. ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, considering the totality of the circumstances in an individual case.”
Andiola has a work permit and Social Security number after being granted immigration relief under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program allows some youths who are in the country illegally to apply for immigration relief, allowing them to garner a work permit and Social Security number for at least two years.
In 1998, Andiola’s mother was detained at the U.S.-Mexico border attempting to cross illegally with Andiola, who was 11 years old at the time. The mother was processed and deported, but she returned to the U.S. that year with her daughter, Andiola said.
Andiola said her mother had not had any contact with immigration officials until she was stopped by a Mesa, Ariz., police officer on suspicion of a traffic violation last fall. That was a few days after the “show me your papers” provision of Arizona's SB 1070 officially became law, giving law enforcement in the state the ability to check the legal status of people under certain conditions when stopped by police or deputies.