While many kids and college students were enjoying their summer vacation on Monday, 16-year-old Kimberly Arellano and her brothers were making a desperate plea for help.
Their mother, Adriana Arellano, was pulled over and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers last week while driving to the bank to deposit money for the family’s rent. She is facing deportation stemming from a warrant for traffic violations six years ago that led to a court ordering her out of the country.
“My mom is not a criminal. She only tried to give three U.S. citizens the best life she could, just as any one of you would do for your children,” said Kimberly Arellano, referring to the fact that while her mother entered the U.S. illegally, she and her siblings are U.S. citizens.
Hours after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order to stay Adriana Arellano’s deportation Monday morning, Kimberly and her brothers, 21-year-old Jose and 12-year-old Adrian, spoke at a news conference at the Mi Familia Vota offices in Las Vegas and asked Nevadans to call ICE and plead for her release.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said in a statement Monday that Arellano appealed her deportation order multiple times, but the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a final order for her deportation in 2017.
Adriana Arellano will remain in ICE custody “pending the outcome of her immigration case,” Pitts O’Keefe said.
Adriana Arellano entered the United States in 1995 and was placed in deportation proceedings in 2011, according to ICE.
Nevada Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, said there are many paths to legal citizenship, and undocumented immigrants should expect to face legal reprimand.
“The option is you get here legally, or you don’t,” he said. “She’s had her day in court, a judgment was made and now she has to face it.”
Eviction notice raises stakes
The same day their mother was detained, Kimberly and Jose found a 10-day eviction notice on their door. While they fight for their mother’s freedom, they’re also packing and looking for a new home.
They’ve relied on their wages and help from their mother’s friends while she’s gone, but Jose Arellano said that other undocumented people in the community have begun avoiding their apartment.
“It’s gotten to the point where people who found out what happened to our mom, that they won’t come to our house,” he said.
Her children said the family had been struggling financially since their mother’s work permit expired and she was unable to renew it.
Jose Arellano, who studies criminal justice at the College of Southern Nevada, and Kimberly Arellano both work part-time jobs at restaurants to help support their family.
“My mother is the most dedicated and hardworking woman I know,” Kimberly Arellano read from a statement. She began crying and couldn’t finish the next sentence, so Jose read it for her.
“They took her away from us and left us with no parents,” he said.
Victoria Ruiz-Marin of the Nevada Immigrant Coalition said the Arellano family’s story isn’t unique. She said that while photos of migrant and refugee children separated from their parents in detention facilities at the border circulate on social media, a very similar narrative is playing out among U.S. families.
“This cruel plan to separate families is happening in backyards all over America. It’s happening in our state of Nevada. It’s happening in our schools. It’s happening in our city,” she said. “We cannot allow this to happen.”
Assemblyman Edwards said that U.S. citizens who are dependent on undocumented immigrants aren’t left high and dry when their parents are deported. They can stay with family members, enter the foster care system or return to their parents’ home country and then return as adults.
“They’re not the most desired options, but they are options,” he said. “It happens to U.S. citizens every day. If a single parent goes to jail, their children are left behind.”
He said that after 24 years in the U.S., Adriana Arellano had plenty of time to pursue legal citizenship.
‘Immigrants are people’
Ruiz-Marin said it’s important for immigrants in the U.S. to know their rights and urged them to double-check any information they read online.
For those who witness an ICE raid or arrest, she said bystanders should pay attention to detail and report what they see to advocacy groups like United We Dream.
The Arellano siblings haven’t seen their mother since she was detained, and they likely won’t be able to visit her before she is deported if the court allows the order to stand.
Kimberly Arellano said she has awakened several times in the middle of the night to the sound of her youngest brother crying for their mother.
“Even if I see my mom, I will only see her through a glass screen. No chance of hugging her goodbye,” she said.
After the news conference, a group of volunteers huddled around folding tables and began calling ICE’s local office at 702-388-6253 to demand Adriana Arellano be released.
Kimberly Arellano said that no matter what happens, her family will keep fighting to bring their mother home.
“My immigrant community should not be criminalized. Immigrants are people,” she said. “We are people.”