Arizona Deserves No Peace From Pro-Immigrant Forces

Nativism as a force is on the defensive in Arizona and elsewhere.

Nowhere is this so telling as in the push for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, D.C.

The New York Times reported recently that Republicans, including Arizona U.S. senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, are taking part in meetings with Democrats, like New York U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, to craft an immigration bill.

It also reports that President Obama wants a complete reworking of the immigration system and will accept nothing less than a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented men, women, and children in our midst.

The goal is to pass the reform package this year.

Meanwhile, millions hide in plain sight, hoping that la migra will not come knocking on their doors, tearing them from their families.

They also pray they will not be stopped by local cops, who in Arizona — because of Senate Bill 1070 — may look upon brown skin and lack of ID as reasonable suspicion to hold someone and check his or her immigration status.

The former recently happened to Maria Arreola, when agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to her door one night to arrest her on an order of removal from 1998, when she was stopped at a point of entry and sent back to Mexico.

According to her immigration attorney, Jose Penalosa, Arreola was fleeing domestic violence, seeking sanctuary for herself, her daughter, Erika Andiola, and Erika's siblings. Eventually, the family successfully made it across the Sonoran Desert and have been here since.

The order of removal — issued, Penalosa says, by the Border Patrol — remained on her record. It came to the attention of ICE after Arreola was stopped for speeding by the Mesa Police Department in September and was taken into custody because she did not have a driver's license or other identification.

There's only speculation as to why ICE did not issue a hold at the time and why ICE waited several months before sending agents to apprehend her.

(Some believe that either the Mesa PD or ICE was targeting Arreola's family for retaliation, a charge both agencies deny.)

Nevertheless, the 1998 order made Arreola immediately removable from the country. And ICE wasted no time, putting her on a bus that picked up more souls at ICE's Florence detention center and headed straight for the border.

Yet, dramatically, as Arreola tells it, the bus driver got a call after the stop in Florence and immediately turned the bus around. Arreola soon was reunited with her family, including her son, who also had been cut loose by the feds.

The unprecedented had happened, ordered by the highest levels of ICE, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the White House.


Because Arreola is the mother of Andiola, co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and a nationally known pro-immigrant activist who can boast access to the corridors of power, as well as to a vast network of fellow activists and supporters.

After consulting with Penalosa, Andiola took to YouTube, where she gave a tearful account of the ICE abduction of her mother and brother.

"We have to stop separating families," she said, sobbing. "This is real. This is so real. This is not just happening to me; it's happening to families everywhere."

Indeed, while the Obama administration pushes for comprehensive immigration reform, it simultaneously pursues a program of mass expulsion, deporting a record 409,849 mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons in fiscal year 2012 alone.

ICE also has ramped up its audits of employers who hire undocumented workers.

And yet ICE Director John Morton continues to blather incessantly about ICE's using its "prosecutorial discretion" to pursue just the really bad criminal aliens.

That's the PR message ICE wishes to convey, but Morton's much-discussed December 21 memo on the agency's "detainer" policy makes clear that not only those convicted of felonies and serious misdemeanors will earn an ICE detainer, but also those who have been subject to an order of removal in the past.

Such as Arreola, 55, who is by no means a criminal, much less a serious one.

Arreola's arrest gave the lie to Morton's assurances about ICE's enforcement priorities. The reality is, as Andiola pointed out in her YouTube plea for help, the terror that she and her family experienced that night is frighteningly common.

"It happens all the time," Penalosa said of people taken in this manner. "I'm sure this occurs every day, but for me, with particular clients, once a month."

And he says that every week, he will get a phone call about someone picked up during a local traffic stop whom ICE is trying to hustle out of the country.

Fortunately, Andiola was able to mobilize thousands of supporters — and garner the help of pro-immigrant politicians, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Luis Gutierrez among them.

Penalosa believes the order to turn around Arreola's bus came directly from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

"It had to," he reasoned. "The documents I have that released her clearly say, 'per ICE headquarters.' So that has to be John Morton and Janet Napolitano."

All this took place in less than 24 hours. Once Arreola was released on January 11, she and Andiola appeared at a rally in front of Phoenix's ICE headquarters, surrounded by well-wishers, who earlier had chanted, "Hey, Obama, don't deport my mama."

The story made CNN and illustrated how ordinary people are crushed by ICE. It's a black eye for the agency at a time when Obama seriously is working toward immigration reform.

But it was also a demonstration of raw political muscle — the influence Latinos now have on the Obama administration.

And it is a sign that those who care about human and civil rights must push, on every level, in the coming year to secure basic rights for the undocumented.

This means pressuring ICE to end the hostility of some in its ranks to Obama's policies toward the undocumented, particularly his administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has given DREAMers hope and a reprieve from living like fugitives.

It means pressuring Governor Jan Brewer to rescind her racist executive order denying driver's licenses to DACA beneficiaries, as Andiola and a coalition of activists did during Brewer's state of the state speech on the Arizona Legislature's opening day.

These demonstrators took over the state House lobby in a raucous, yet peaceful, protest that ended with three arrested and a ton of media attention on this ongoing injustice.

Finally, there must be no end to the defiance of what's left of SB 1070, which survives as an embarrassment to this state, one Arizona will never live down until it is stricken from the law books.

To this end, Phoenix civil rights activist Sal Reza and his Barrio Defense Committee will lead a 13-mile march from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's notorious Fourth Avenue Jail on Saturday, January 19, to Phoenix Police Department headquarters and on to Glendale Police Department HQ.

The purpose is to protest local law enforcement's complicity in the undocumented community's criminalization, which remains unchanged despite the public's fatigue with immigration issues.

So, as they say on the street, "No justice, no peace." Thus begins 2013.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons