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January 11, 2013

Family members of prominent immigration activists detained and released

The home of a prominent immigration activist was raided by federal officers Thursday night.They were released hours later.

Erika Andiola, 20, a leader of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, said U.S. Immigration and Customs agents arrived at the door of her Phoenix home around 9 p.m. She said they asked for her mother, Maria Arreola, and immediately handcuffed Arreola when she approached the door. They then asked Andiola’s older brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola, his legal status. When he didn’t answer their questions, the agents also detained him, Erika Andiola said.

“Seeing my mother and my brother taken away from me, I will never forget this,” Andiola said in a conference call with reporters.

The two were released within hours, but not before Andiola began mobilizing the activism community via Facebook and other social media tools. She also called on her congressional contacts, seeking support and assistance to release her family members.

U.S. Citizens and Immigration agents confirmed that two people were detained and later released.

“Although one individual had been previously removed from the country, an 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,” Barbara Gonzalez, press secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement. “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.”

Some supporters raised questions about whether the arrests were a form of retaliation for Andiola's activism promoting legislation known as the Dream Act, which would give a path to legalization to young undocumented workers seeking to attend college or join the military.

Andiola said ICE agents allowed her 34-year-old brother to see a file that included pictures of her. She said agents told her brother that they were aware of her work and that he should not participate.

Federal officials denied the arrests had anything to do with her activism, but said that they were based on a prior arrest. Andiola’s mother, who also has a previous order of removal, was detained and released last month after a traffic stop.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the traffic stop arrest may have triggered the ICE team to visit Arriola's home.

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