Under pressure, DHS releases high-profile illegal immigrants

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Federal authorities released the mother and brother of a prominent illegal immigrant activist Friday morning after Hispanic and immigrant-rights activists objected and flooded the Obama administration with phone calls.

Erika Andiola, a prominent illegal immigrant Dream Act activist who qualified for President Obama’s new non-deportation policy, said her mother and older brother were arrested at their Arizona home overnight Thursday, but both have been released following the outcry and pressure on Homeland Security officials.

But she and other activists said the arrest should push the administration to halt all deportations and instead legalize the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — something they said Hispanics earned through the power of their votes in the 2012 elections.

“I will keep fighting for it,” Ms. Andiola said. “We want President Obama to keep his word on immigration reform.”

Ms. Andiola’s mother, Maria Arreola, and brother, Heriberto Andiolo Arreola, were arrested at their Arizona home at 9 p.m. Thursday, but her brother was released within nine hours, and her mother was in the process of being released at midday after Ms. Andiola rallied other activists and congressional staffers.

The mother, Mrs. Arreola, has already been ordered deported from the country, which could still leave her liable for future deportation.

Ms. Andiola said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were aware of who she was, and she said they told her family to be careful about following her.

Ms. Arreola was picked up in a traffic stop last month in Mesa, Ariz., but was released after immigration authorities decided not to detain her at that time. Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said she “another victim of ‘driving while brown’” under Arizona’s new law that allows police to check the immigration status of those they encounter and suspect of being in the country illegally

Ms. Andiola said she wasn’t sure why her family was targeted.

Thursday’s arrest highlights the administration’s dilemma on immigration enforcement. It released data last month showing that it deported a record number of immigrants in fiscal year 2012 — even as Mr. Obama has tried to protect most rank-and-file illegal immigrants from the danger of deportation and to focus immigration enforcement efforts instead on criminals and repeat-immigration violators.

Immigrant-rights activists said Friday that Ms. Arreola’s arrest shows too many people are still being caught up in the net of deportations, and she was one of the lucky ones in getting released.

“These are not isolated incidents,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “They happen every day in every state. What’s different about this is Erika was such a great leader, she was able to mobilize lots of people.”

In a statement, ICE press secretary Barbara Gonzalez said that after a review, both the mother and brother appeared to be candidates for “prosecutorial discretion” — even though one of them has been ordered deported.

“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,” she said. “A fuller review of the cases is currently on-going.”

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