Throughout his Presidency, Barack Obama has been consistent on immigration.
Every year, his administration has set a record for removing undocumented immigrants in the country. This past year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 409,849 people.
At the same time, Obama has talked about “prosecutorial discretion,” about giving government agents the tools and direction necessary to avoid unnecessarily breaking up non-criminal immigrant families.
Those two ideals clashed in a public and ugly way Thursday night and Friday morning, when ICE agents showed up at Erika Andiola’s home just outside Phoenix and took away her mother and brother.
Andiola is one of the most prominent DREAM Act activists in the country, winning national awards for her activism against Nativist Arizona politicians as well as the DREAM Act.
I knew Andiola, a strong-willed and intelligent young woman, when I was an immigration reporter at Phoenix New Times.
“They just came to my house, they knocked on my door, my brother was outside, with the neighbor,” Andiola said. “They just came to ask for my mom. They said they were not going to do anything to her.”
But that wasn’t true: When Maria Arreola came out to the living room, ICE grabbed her. They’d already arrested Andiola’s brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola. And they took both of them to Florence, a prison town housing four immigrant detention facilities (which I wrote a detailed exposé about in the summer of 2011).
Andiola was spared a terrifying ride to central processing because she received a work permit under Obama’s deferred action program this past November.
What happened after her recording was posted is, at once, good news and sobering. DREAM activists from around the country organized a phone campaign to demand the family’s release.
Under pressure from an angry public, ICE relented.
A spokeswoman for the agency told The New York Times that a preliminary review of the case revealed it contains some of the elements outlined in the agency’s “prosecutorial discretion policy” and would “merit an exercise of discretion.”
Other experts suggested that what happened to the Arreolas could have been much worse.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, told The New York Times that these incidents “happen every day, in every state.”
Because Andiola was well-connected, her family was spared.
But there are others “you never hear about,” Hincapié said.
That’s a point Andiola made in her video, which has received over 35,000 page views since it was uploaded.
“I need everybody to stop pretending that nothing is wrong,” Andiola cried in the video, “stop pretending that we’re all just living normal lives, because we’re not. This could happen to any of us anytime.”