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January 13, 2013

Interview: Presente Responds To Obama Administration Arrests Of Member’s Family

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Last week U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the home of prominent immigrant rights activist Erika Andiola, and took away her mother, Maria, and her brother, Heriberto. Erika and her family had been working in Arizona organizing for immigrant reform in the days leading up to the raid. Erika previously had a leadership role in Presente.org working on their elections campaign.

I spoke with Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org, about the arrests.

“Once again ICE is abusing its authority, they are out of control.” Carmona said. ICE has earned a reputation for extremism given the militant and expansive nature of the raids it has conducted – showing up armed and aggressive to arrest migrant workers whose only crime is working without proper documentation.

Carmona also pointed out that while campaigning for re-election President Obama claimed there would be a new policy on deportations. The new policy would involve case by case review of deportations and following that review many undocumented immigrants without criminal records would be able to stay in the country and apply for work permits. The plan was sold to the American people as prioritizing violent criminal immigrants and de-prioritizing non-violent law abiding immigrant workers. Which makes these arrests even more strange.

“This is not the type of family that meets that criteria, they are low priority” Carmona said meaning that neither Erik’s mother nor brother are violent criminals and therefore under the new guidelines should not be targeted by ICE raids. Which raises further questions about the motive for these arrests given Erika’s prominence and her family members not meeting the criteria laid out by the President.

In terms of solutions Carmona noted both the short term and the long term.

President Obama can take some action today. “There are immediate steps the President can take such as deferred action for low-priority cases.” Carmona said. This would be “similar to the DREAM Act for students.” Obama famously issued an executive order to assist immigrant students bypassing Congress. Carmona argues President Obama could also take executive action regarding the prevention of ICE raids on low-priority undocumented workers such as the kind that targeted Erika’s family members.

But even that change is not the primary solution. “There needs to be a pathway for citizenship.” Carmona said reaffirming his group’s commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. Immigration reform was a major part of President Obama’s reelection campaign and is believed to have contributed to Obama winning the Hispanic vote by over 70%. Republican candidate Mitt Romney ran on self-deportation.

Erika’s mother and brother were ultimately released, possibly due to the outcry from the Hispanic community. Yet the menace of ICE raids remains for millions of undocumented workers, many will not be fortunate enough to have political conscious and courageous relatives as Erika’s family did. Their fate will depend on the action or inaction taken by the Obama Administration and Congress this year.



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