Immigrant rights and reproductive justice activist Alejandra Pablos was reportedly detained by immigration officials on Wednesday during a routine check-in with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Pablos has been attending the regularly scheduled ICE check-ins about every three months since 2013 without any issues. But on Wednesday, ICE officials in Tucson, AZ, arrested Pablos and took her into custody, according to local immigrant rights activists.
“If you’re seeing this, [it means] I just got detained by ICE,” Pablos said in a video released on Wednesday. (The video was recorded shortly before she went to her check-in with the purpose of being released in the event that she was arrested.)
Pablos, 32, is an organizer with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She is a permanent resident, but she still faces deportation due to what her advocates refer to as a “substance-abuse related arrest.” Court records show Pablos was arrested for driving under the influence several years ago. (She spent two years in detention fighting the deportation order.)
Advocates for Pablos say she has paid her dues and that her case was closed years ago. “She’s been out for years and has not posed any sort of risk,” Jacinta Gonzales, an Arizona based immigrant rights organizer who shot the video of Pablos before she went into her check-in, told Splinter. The fact that Pablos kept checking in with immigration agents with no apparent problems would seem to back that up.
But in January this year, she was arrested at an immigrant rights protest in front of a Department of Homeland Security office in Virginia. Gonzalez told Splinter that Pablos was targeted for arrest because she was holding a megaphone and chanting at the protest.
Pablos and her advocates say the only thing that’s changed since her last check-in is the new Virginia arrest on her record. They believe the federal government is retailing against her because she participated in the protest.
“They are trying to tear our movement and our community apart and I’m not going to let that happen,” Pablos said in the video.
Pablos is in the process of requesting asylum “based on dangers she would face as a political organizer in Mexico,” according to a petition launched to support her.
In previous years ICE tended to stay away from activists with no violent records who could mobilize their networks to launch protests. But Pablos is now part of what appears to be a growing list of immigrant rights activists targeted by the agency.
Recently, the case of Ravi Ragbir, the director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City who is facing deportation, made national headlines. In Colorado, ICE agents arrested Eliseo Jurado, the husband of a Peruvian woman taking sanctuary at a church. In Washington, ICE officials went to the home of activist Maru Mora-Villalpando to hand-deliver a letter ordering her to court. ICE agents in Mississippi followed and then arrested Daniela Vargas after she spoke at an immigrant rights press conference. ICE officials in Washington also arrested Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez after he was quoted in The Seattle Times.
“What we’ve seen is more and more organizers being targeted for their organizing work,” Gonzalez told Splinter. “The federal government is using all of its power to silence any sort of dissent.”
ICE did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Splinter will update this story when we hear from them.