In an open letter to Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, undocumented immigrant activist Erika Andiola calls for immigration reform that keeps families together. Andiola's mother and brother were arrested last week in an immigration raid on her home. They were released from immigration detention the next day.

Dear Senator Flake and Senator McCain,

Thursday night I heard a banging knock at the door. I looked through the window and immigration agents asked me to open the door because they were conducting an “investigation.”
They asked for Maria, my mother, and as soon she stepped out they abruptly pulled her with force and handcuffed her in front of me and Angel, my 16 year old brother. They also detained my older brother for no cause. Angel pointed out to them that they needed to take her medications because of her cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. They laughed at his face told and ignored him. I felt helpless. Under this horrific scenario I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to run and pull them both away from them but I couldn’t.

I spent an entire night crying and lonely. At every corner of my house, my mother and brother’s touches and memories were there. The most important people in my life had been taken from me.

At that point I remembered that I am also an immigrant rights advocate and that I have a national community and youth movement behind me. Within minutes I made calls, typed text messages, and signed on social media to tell friends what had just occurred. Pleading, I made a call to action. Almost immediately, community leaders and elected officials from Arizona, Florida to New York and Washington D.C, we activated a national network of political power within the Latino community. The morning after, my brother was released from detention. The same day and three hours later we found out the the bus taking her to the border turned around and my mother was coming back home.

My story is not unique. It occurs every day. But not many have the strength of a national movement behind them. The helplessness is real of 400,000 deportations of families being torn from their U.S. citizen children, spouses, or siblings. You and your children and grandchildren will never experience this pain. But many of your constituents do. It is time Congress concentrate on smart enforcement that truly focuses on terrorists and violent criminals. And this is all under the Obama administration that has not taken leadership on immigration and has adopted failed programs such as Secure Communities and 287-G..

The same activists and everyday Americans, who signed thousands of petitions and made thousands of calls that night, are demanding a system that protects families and protects our rights as human beings. It is for Congress to demonstrate congressional leadership and not wait. Congress must embrace its constitutional power of legislation and lead on immigration policy. This means a policy that will promote family unity and not more enforcement, like in my state of Arizona.

Arizona has been the center of the immigration debate and our state can be a leader on immigration policy that unites families. Senator McCain and Senator Flake, I am asking for your company to meet and hear the story of my family to ensure that your leadership is guided by the real stories of Arizona; the stories of a new generation of Americans and our struggle. The entire country is ready to make America great. Arizonans are ready to move forward into the future. At the same time, we will fight ICE’s arbitrary attack on our communities and continue to ensure that families are not separated.

Over the next few days, we will activate a national network of not just activist but everyday Americans, especially the Latino community, and the media to ensure our elected officials hear our voices demanding modern and humane immigration reform. We hope we can work with you and your leadership to bring real reform in 2013.


Erika Andiola
Maria Arreola
Heriberto Andiola
Angel Fernandez