September 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is cooperating to an unprecedented degree with local and state police across the country to apprehend undocumented workers. The pretext is often a manhunt for an immigrant with felony convictions.
Anecdotal evidence shows that ICE raids may also be targeting prominent activists in the immigrant rights movement.
Gabriela Pacheco, a youth leader and honors student at Miami-Dade College, was recently awakened in the night by ICE agents who had entered her house to arrest her undocumented father, mother, and two sisters. She has been a legislative advocate on immigrant rights issues and organized a student rally in front of the state capitol in March.
Her father, Gustavo Pacheco, an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant, is also an activist. The weekend before his arrest, Gustavo spoke at a vigil against an ordinance in Avon Park, Fla., that would have imposed fines on those who provide jobs or housing to undocumented workers.
Erika Pacheco, Gabriela’s sister, said in a written statement that an immigration official commented on Gabriela’s activism as he reviewed the family’s documents: “He laughed … and said you can thank your sister for everything that is happening.”
Under these circumstances of politically motivated federal raids, the courageous stand of Mexican-born activist Elvira Arellano gains added significance. Arellano, 31, a single mother and founder of the advocacy group United Latino Families, is defying a federal deportation order she received from Homeland Security. She has taken refuge in a storefront church on Chicago’s West Side and publicly challenged ICE to enter and deport her.
Her seven-year-old son is a U.S. citizen, and her protest is explicitly targeted against the breakup of families by federal immigration policy. After a lengthy standoff, the ICE announced it would not enter the church, but that it would choose another time to deport Arellano, whom it considers a fugitive.
As a prime example of the “criminal record” justification, Arellano was arrested in 2000 at O’Hare International Airport, where she was working as a cleaning woman, and convicted of working under a false Social Security number.