Vocal immigration reform advocate Erika Andiola told Fusion’s Alicia Menendez on Tuesday that she "had to quit" her job as a congressional staffer to focus on fighting her mother’s deportation to Mexico.
"I cannot imagine that happening," Andiola said of the possible deportation. "You know, that’s what keeps me moving. Just that fear really keeps me pumped up to keep working and making sure that, you know, she stays home with us."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) briefly detained her mother in Arizona and threatened her with deportation nearly a year ago. Her mother will face immigration officials early next year for a final decision. Andiola is also undocumented but received deportation relief through deferred action, a program designed specifically to give some undocumented young people renewable, two-year reprieves from deportation.
Andiola said it’s an especially "difficult situation" for her close-knit family to consider during the holiday season, particularly because as a condition of deferred action, Andiola cannot leave the United States to visit Mexico.
[UPDATE, 7:40 P.M. EST] ICE said in a statement to Fusion, "As determined in January, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) exercised prosecutorial discretion following a full review of this case, and that determination remains warranted."
Without explicitly saying so, the statement indicates the agency still feels the prosecutorial discretion applies and is unlikely to take actions to deport Andiola's mother when she meets with them next year.
Andiola originally took a job with Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema's (D) office with the hope that she could convince lawmakers of the need for immigration reform. But it’s proved to be a difficult and long process.
"I went into Congress thinking that I could actually be on the inside changing hearts inside of a lot of those folks who can actually pass legislation," she said. "The fact that I had deferred action and I was able to get a job, the same day that I got my job at the congresswoman’s office, it was the same day that ICE raided my home. So for me that was like a big eye-opener and it was something greater than me telling me you know, you’re not only...you have a work permit now, but you need to..don’t forget that your family’s still vulnerable."
She just launched Keep Us Together, a site dedicated to fighting her mother's deportation that asks visitors to sign a petition. It also features a countdown clock to her mother's January 2nd meeting with ICE.
Andiola has been critical of the fact that the Obama Administration has deported a record number of people and fellow DREAMers say leaving her post as a staffer for a Democratic congresswoman may give her more freedom to be vocal about her opposition to those deportations.
Sinema said in a statement, “While I am disappointed to lose Erika as a member of our staff, I understand that she needs to focus 100% on her mom’s case. We are hopeful that Erika’s mother can remain in the country because we believe families should stay together. Arizona families just like Erika’s are waiting for this Congress to pass commonsense comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, keeps families together, and grows our economy. Arizona has been waiting for too long already; we owe it to our state to pass immigration reform this year.”
"My job, it’s very important to me," Andiola told Menendez, "but my family is way more important."