We must be ready to respond to deportations

June 6, 2017

On April 24, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Border Patrol raided an apartment complex in the Boyle Heights community of Los Angeles and arrested Teresa de Jesus Vidal Jaime, a mother of two who has lived in the U.S. since 2001.

The arrest sent shock waves through the immigrant rights activist community, which was gearing up for May Day. A campaign to free Teresa took shape, led by the Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) and spearheaded by Teresa's daughter Claudia Rueda, a Cal State Los Angeles student and activist in her own right. Through protests, letter-writing campaigns and a legal defense, activists were able to win probation for Teresa just in time for Mother's Day.

However, in a retaliatory move, the Border Patrol apprehended Claudia Rueda on May 18 as she was walking out of her aunt's house to move her mother's car. Now, the same activists who worked so hard to defend Teresa are leading the charge in the Free Claudia campaign.

The arrests of Teresa and Claudia are not only part of the intensified attack on immigrants, but targeted persecution of activists known for speaking out. Jazmin, an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Coalition, talked to Victor Fernandez, an immigrant rights organizer and member of the International Socialist Organization, about Claudia's detention.

CAN YOU tell us more details about Claudia's arrest?

THEY WERE targeting her. After they raided the apartment complex in Boyle Heights where they detained her mother, Claudia moved out to her aunt's house. CBP [the California Border Patrol] went back to the apartment complex and were asking around for Claudia and harassing the neighbors.

Some people knew not to open their doors to them, but some did, and the CBP detained about five people. They then went to look for her where she lived with her aunt. They surrounded the building, which was a duplex. After detaining Claudia outside, they tried to go into the aunt's unit, but she didn't open the door. But another unit did open the door, and another seven people were detained.

THAT'S especially cruel--not only were they targeting an activist, but they used it as an excuse to detain even more people. Can you tell us more about the organizing efforts since Claudia's detention?

ATTORNEYS AND folks with the IYC visit her inside the detention center. Since she's involved in community organizing, she knows not to sign anything. Some people sign their own deportation orders without knowing it.

Immigrant rights activist Claudia Rueda
Immigrant rights activist Claudia Rueda

She is also talking to other folks. They're moving them around, so she's telling them not to sign anything, letting them know their rights, and getting their information to see how the IYC can help them.

The Immigrant Youth Coalition works with other groups such as ICE Out of LA and Defend Boyle Heights. What makes IYC different than other groups is that it has a Rapid Response Team ready. If someone you know gets detained, IYC has a set strategy for helping undocumented immigrants who have been detained.

When Teresa was detained, Claudia knew to call the head of the Rapid Response Team in LA. Then the Deportation Defense Coordinator and the statewide organizers took the lead.

The IYC uses coalition building with other groups in order to increase resources. It has organized a campaign to call the ICE director and reach out to government officials. It collects letters of support and is starting to reach out to elected officials like U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and state Sen. Kevin de León.

They even get people to go to the court hearings to support family members who might be too scared to go to these hearings because of their status.

TRUMP, LIKE Obama before him, says that the detentions of immigrants are aimed at criminals. But the Border Patrol and law enforcement have always gone after all undocumented immigrants, some of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades. But now, they're going after activists. How is the movement responding to this?

THERE DEFINITELY has been fear. Before, we used to say that we are "undocumented and unafraid." But this is really scary. We try to check in on each other. Fortunately, if something happens to us, we know what to do.

When Teresa was detained, people were writing letters of support and had put their addresses on them. CBP showed up to the house of someone who had written a letter. Claudia's aunt wrote a letter of support, and this is how we think they got her address.

Now when we write letters, we have to be more cautious about who writes the letters. It's just scary because we've never see this before. But we now know to be more cautious, and we're not giving up.

WHAT CAN people do to help with the campaign to free Claudia?

THEY CAN call ICE San Diego Field Office Director Gregory Archambeault at 619-557-6117 and ask him to grant Claudia Sahari Rueda (A#213-081-680) prosecutorial discretion. They can also urge representatives to support Claudia.

People can also do Rapid Response Training so they can be knowledgeable in techniques to defer deportation--so they can do what we did here, but for others.

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