Community Protests The Detainment Of Young Boyle Heights Immigrant Rights Organizer
After a young immigrant rights activist was detained by Border Patrol Thursday, community members rallied on social media, in Boyle Heights, and outside of the Chula Vista Border Patrol station near San Diego where Claudia Rueda is being held.
Rueda, a 22-year-old community organizer and college student, was detained by Border Patrol agents early on Thursday morning in Boyle Heights. The Cal State L.A. student has been a prominent voice in local activism efforts since her mother, Teresa Vidal-Jaime, was detained by Customs and Border Patrol agents last month. Vidal-Jaime was picked up by federal authorities during a large-scale drug bust at the Boyle Heights apartment complex where she lives; she was later cleared of any involvement, but still faces deportation.
Rueda was detained sometime after 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning in Boyle Heights. According to the Immigrant Youth Coalition, where Rueda works as an organizer, she was out on the street moving her mother's car when agents attempted to enter the family home but were denied access after failing to provide a warrant. At some point, Rueda was detained without any family members being notified; after several hours of not knowing where she was, they were able to locate her in the Chula Vista detention center.
Rueda was born in Mexico and has lived in the Eastside neighborhood of Boyle Heights since she was a child. According to a statement from the Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles chapter, she is eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection and "has been preparing to apply for DACA but had been unable to gather the money for the filing fees."
Jose Hernandez, a spokesman for the Border Patrol, told LAist that "U.S. Border Patrol agents conducted enforcement actions in Los Angeles, Calif., targeting multiple individuals at numerous locations" on Thursday morning resulting from a larger criminal investigation into cross-border drug smuggling. When asked whether Border Patrol had any reason to believe that Rueda was involved with the organization or if she had been picked up incidentally, Hernandez told LAist that he was unable to comment on individuals due to "privacy concerns."
"The Border Patrol is making utterly false statements about Claudia in an effort to demonize her," the Immigrant Youth Coalition said in a statement.
"We believe it's retaliation, but it's hard to prove that," Claudia Bautista, an organizer with NDLON and friend of Rueda's, told LAist. "Knowing how big of a role she played for her mom, all the interviews that she did and all the attention that her mom's case got, it definitely looks suspicious," Bautista said.
A release from the Immigrant Youth Coalition seconded that notion, stating that "The timing of Claudia’s detention, just days after she secured her mother’s release on bond, raises the troubling specter of retaliation."
Bautista was one of a number of people who traveled down to San Diego Thursday night to join local activists in protesting outside of Border Patrol's San Ysidro station, where they believe Rueda is being held. The protesters stayed outside of the station until about 3 a.m. Friday morning, according to Bautista. An action was also held in Boyle Heights, where an image of Rueda and the words "Free Claudia" were screened onto a local business.
"What we're worried about is once she gets transferred to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] custody that she will be put in deportation proceedings. That's why we're trying to get her out before she gets transferred," Bautista said.
Bautista described Rueda, who is pursuing Latin American Studies at Cal State L.A., as "a very kind" person who is deeply involved with the community. "Even though she's very shy, she still puts herself out there for the betterment of the community," Bautista said.
Boyle Heights on Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Defend Boyle Heights via Facebook)
Protests in support of Rueda's release are currently being held in San Diego outside of Border Patrol's San Ysidro Station at 311 Athey Avenue in San Ysidro, and will likely continue until 3 p.m.
A #FreeClaudia solidarity action is also planned to take place in Los Angeles Friday afternoon. It will be held outside of the Federal Building at 300 North Los Angeles Street (where ICE's local field office is) in downtown Los Angeles from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. More information can be found here.