A Mexican national who has spent several years organizing Californians against federal immigration policy filed a lawsuit last week against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Border Patrol, and other federal agencies.
Claudia Rueda, a 23-year-old student at California State University-Los Angeles (CSU-LA), claims that her application for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unfairly rejected by immigration officials as a reprisal for her “constitutionally protected political speech” and “activism,” according to the court filing.
Rueda, who was brought into the United States as a six-year-old, said she faces deportation proceedings at the end of this month.
#HappeningNow: “I am still not free!” Immigrant youth and @CalStateLA student Claudia Rueda sues DHS over retaliation, illegal arrest, and denying her DACA #FreeClaudia #ICEoutofLA pic.twitter.com/YCXYtg680t
— NDLON (@NDLON) October 30, 2018
DACA, established by President Barack Obama’s executive order in 2012, allows some people who entered the country unlawfully as children to remain if certain conditions are met. The Trump administration unsuccessfully attempted to end the policy a year ago.
“I’m not going to stay silent when I face and continue to face this legal violence and retaliation against my existence,” Rueda told reporters while surrounded by comrades from a coalition called ICE out of L.A.
“The Department of Homeland Security is targeting me,” she said. “They want to deport me.”
Despite spending more than six years as a pro-migrant organizer, Rueda did not apply for DACA protection until after immigration officers detained her in 2017.
Rueda’s lawsuit contends that her outspoken actions “against the Defendants’ immigration practices” are “the only discernible difference” between her and the nearly 800,000 others who have already been approved for DACA status.
However, Rueda’s complaint makes no mention of her father, Hugo Rueda, who was arrested last year on narcotics charges after more than 30 pounds of cocaine was found in his car, and $630,000 in illicit cash was found in the family’s Los Angeles apartment. Nor does it acknowledge the circumstances of Claudia’s detainment that followed less than a month later, when she had been taken into custody outside of that same home for immigration infractions.
Her capture was part of a sting described by Border Patrol as “targeted enforcement actions that were initiated from a criminal investigation” of a transnational drug enterprise based in Los Angeles. Rueda was held at an ICE detention center for three weeks and eventually released on her own recognizance after progressive allies, along with elected officials like Mayor Eric Garcetti, lobbied on her behalf.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported:
(Claudia) Rueda was one of seven people arrested as part of an investigation into what the Border Patrol called “a cross-border narcotics smuggling operation.” All seven, however, were arrested on suspicion of immigration violations, not drug offenses, the Border Patrol said last year.
Mark Endicott, a supervisor with the Border Patrol in San Diego, told The Times last year that Rueda was “part of a support network” for a drug organization. Rueda and her attorneys have vehemently denied she has any links to criminal activity, and none of those arrested have been charged with drug offenses in the year since the incident, attorneys said.
Still, one of Rueda’s attorneys labeled her “the ideal Dreamer” — a term often used to define unlawfully present immigrants brought into the U.S. as minors who attended school here and claim to identify as American.
As a 17-year-old high school student, Rueda became involved with the Immigrant Youth Coalition where she served as its youth coordinator. The California-based activist group describes itself as “an undocumented and Queer/Trans youth-led organization” whose mission includes mobilizing young people and incarcerated individuals “to create social change that confronts the interlocking systems of oppression.” It is an offshoot of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), which has received significant funding from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and other grant-making institutions known to bankroll liberal and progressive causes.
— AJ+ (@ajplus) June 9, 2017
Rueda’s lawsuit states that she was arrested twice before applying for DACA, downplaying both episodes as “peaceful protest-related misdemeanors that prosecutors did not pursue.” In 2012, she was apprehended at a demonstration in downtown L.A. for disturbing the peace after she sat in the street blocking traffic.
“This is a risk I took for my community,” Rueda told Eastern Group Publications at the time, acknowledging that the arrest could affect her chances to receive DACA protection. “We were tired of living in fear and this action has helped me come out to really be undocumented and unafraid.”
Three years later, she was arrested for trespassing outside the office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Because neither incident resulted in a conviction, neither disqualifies Ms. Rueda from DACA status,” Rueda’s lawsuit maintains, while referring to her as “a law-abiding” person with “no criminal history.”
Dr. Melina Abdullah, a professor at CSU-LA who also a prominent Black Lives Matter leader, has called Rueda “one of our most active and powerful students” and urged her following to “stand up for Claudia.”
Rueda’s attorneys said her federal lawsuit is the first to challenge a rejected DACA application. It is expected to be decided next year.