by Mary Ellen Flannery
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During last month’s Cal State Los Angeles commencement, many students and faculty marched in silence, holding cardboard cutouts of a young woman with a raised fist, to honor a student who was not present at the ceremony: immigration activist Claudia Rueda.
Rueda, 22, was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents on May 18, as she moved her family’s car early one morning to comply with street parking regulations in her East Los Angeles neighborhood. Supporters say she was tracked and targeted by immigration agents because she recently had been leading protests against the detention of her mother, a legal immigrant who was swept up in a police raid and subsequently released.
“We do not arrest people for speaking up for those who don’t have a voice or for doing what is right, just and courageous. #FreeClaudia,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García reacted on Twitter last month.
Since then, hundreds of educators have signed a petition calling for Rueda’s freedom. Many others have written letters to immigration officials, pointing out that Rueda is eligible for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which would provide protection from deportation, and that her arrest looks a lot like retaliation for her immigration activism. Send your own letter, here!
On Friday, California Faculty Association members and immigration activists will attend a hearing inside Otay Mesa Detention Center, and also rally outside, to lobby to Rueda’s swift release.
“Clearly the government is trying to silence people fighting for immigrant rights, and Claudia was targeted,” said Beth Baker, a Cal State L.A. faculty member and CFA member. (Read CFA’s statement calling for Claudia’s immediate release.
Rueda’s detention has stalled her promising academic career — and also “spread trauma and fear throughout campus,” CFA notes. These are not the conditions that inspire learning, or career readiness.
Rueda came to the U.S. at the age of four, and took college prep classes at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. After attending UC Santa Cruz, she transferred to Cal State LA., where she is majoring in Latin American Studies, and is an active member in the Immigration Youth Coalition (IYC) and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. With IYC, she has worked as a youth organizer, conducting workshops and leading her peers.
Although Rueda is DACA-eligible, she couldn’t afford the application, her attorney told the Los Angeles Times. Her mother’s job at a local bakery barely covered her tuition. “To see her education interrupted in this way is just tragic,” Cal State LA professor Alejandra Marchevsky, who taught Rueda last semester, told the Times.