The US has detained yet another immigrant rights activist. In recent months, US authorities have detained, initiated deportation proceedings against, and deported several immigrants’ rights activists including a green card holder and a “Dreamer.”
Last week, Alejandra Pablos, a field coordinator for National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, was detained after a routine check in at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field offices in Arizona.
Pablos has lived in the US since she was a small child, and her mother and most of her family are US citizens. She has filed for asylum because she says she fears persecution in Mexico for her US political activities. As an activist, Pablos’s work reflects the reality that immigrant rights and reproductive justice are intertwined, organizing Latinxs to change policies that harm women’s health and their families.
Her immigration status has been in jeopardy since she was convicted of driving under the influence in 2012. After she served time in both prison and immigration detention, Pablos was released, but ordered to check in with ICE every three months. It was during one of these routine check-ins that she was sent back into detention.
Given her long US residence and family ties, Pablos’ detention and the inherent threat of deportation is deeply concerning. US immigration law generally fails to take adequate account of immigrants’ ties to this country in weighing whether the government has a sufficient reason to deport people. There is currently an ongoing campaign petitioning for Pablos's release.
In recent months, ICE has arrested and deported several immigrants’ rights activists. Ravi Ragbir, a former green card holder from Trinidad and the head of the New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC), was arrested in New York City. Jean Montrevil, an immigrant from Haiti who also worked at NSC, was deported – despite having lived in the US for over three decades with his four US-citizen children. Daniela Vargas, a Mississippi “Dreamer” brought to the US as a child from Argentina, was detained minutes after speaking about her experience at a press conference. Maru Mora Villalpando, a high-profile undocumented activist from Mexico, was served with deportation papers in December.
Represented by the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic, Ravi Ragbir and a group of immigrants’ rights organizations filed a First Amendment lawsuit last month claiming that “federal immigration authorities have specifically targeted prominent and outspoken immigrant-rights activists across the country on the basis of their speech and political advocacy on behalf of immigrants’ rights and social justice.” They have asked the court to order ICE to stop any retaliatory enforcement of immigration laws.
Instead of deporting so many noncitizens with deep ties to the US, the US government and ICE should overhaul the immigration system and take urgent steps to rein in its abuses. The system has far too many paths that lead to automatic deportation, and not nearly enough that allow people whose entire lives are rooted in the United States to stay.